Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took the stage in Iowa late Monday night trailing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by just 0.3 percentage points in the Democratic presidential caucus, so it was fitting that his speech resembled a version he would give for a victory more than one for a loss.
“While the results are not yet known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he just barely trailed Clinton with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Clinton had 49.9 percent to Sanders’ 49.6 percent. (See the latest results here.)
Sanders noted that he entered the race last year with a sparse operation in the state, in order to tout how far he and his supporters had come.
“We have no good organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition, and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America,” he said.
Clinton, fearing a repeat of 2008 when then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois won the Iowa caucus, invested heavily in offices, paid staff and campaign infrastructure. But, as Sanders noted Monday, he was able to catch up, fueled by grassroots enthusiasm and small-dollar donations.
“While the results are still not complete, it looks like we will have about half of the Iowa delegates,” Sanders said. “I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Secretary Clinton and her organization for waging a very vigorous campaign.”
Sanders said his showing in Iowa sent “a very profound message” to the political, economic and media establishment: “That is, given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”
He added that Americans are ready for “the radical idea” that they no longer have to put up with “a rigged economy.”
“We are going to create an economy that works for working families, not just the billionaire class,” he said.
The political arm of MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Sanders, also spun the Iowa result as a tie, if not a win, for the senator.
“It is incredible that Bernie Sanders came from so far behind in just a few short months, closing a massive gap to end up in a virtual tie in the Iowa Caucus tonight," said Ilya Sheyman, the progressive group's executive director. "These results are a huge win for the Sanders campaign as well as the broader progressive movement to which Bernie is giving voice. The Sanders campaign leaves Iowa with the wind at its back and substantial momentum heading into New Hampshire."
Clinton, in her speech earlier in the night, talked less about how she felt she did in the caucus. She said the close race between her and Sanders provided an opportunity for Democrats “to have a real contest of ideas.”
“I stand here tonight, breathing a big sigh of relief,” she said. “Thank you Iowa!”
The two candidates next turn their attention to New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Feb. 9.