And on the 24th day, the 2020 Iowa Democratic Party rested.
The final results of the Iowa Democratic caucuses — held February 3 — were reported Thursday night by the state party.
Those finally final results came after a caucus-night delay caused by a technological malfunction, then recanvass and recount requests by two of the presidential campaigns.
So here we are nearly a month and two other early-voting states later, and we finally have the Democratic caucus results.
And nothing changed.
Former mayor Pete Buttigieg appears to have won by a historic and cartoonishly small margin. Buttigieg earned 26.17% of the state delegate equivalents, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders earned 26.13%. Put another way, Buttigieg won by a fraction of a single state delegate equivalent. It’s an almost unfathomable margin of victory.
Sanders can claim a victory of sorts of his own. While state delegate equivalents have historically been the measuring stick for caucus success — and the means by which the all-important national delegates are awarded — the 2020 caucuses featured the first-ever reporting of the first preference totals. Sanders won that count by more than 6,000 votes over Buttigieg.
So, not unlike the days immediately following the caucuses, both Buttigieg and Sanders will claim victory in Iowa. And both have a legitimate case for claiming victory.
Buttigieg won the delegate race — in addition to earning the most state delegate equivalents, he will wind up with 14 national delegates to Sanders’ 12 — while Sanders won the popular vote. Regardless of how you measure it, both campaigns were very successful in Iowa, and were clearly the cream of the 2020 Iowa caucus crop, as Elizabeth Warren (18% of SDEs), Joe Biden (16%) and Amy Klobuchar (12%) finished comfortably behind the top two.
It bears noting that while the results are final, they are not undisputed. While the campaigns were able to flag some precincts’ results for the recanvass and recount, media organizations and other caucus observers also flagged questionable results in other precincts. Those will not be reviewed because only presidential campaigns can make such a request.
Between the ridiculously close final outcome and the outstanding disputed results, The Associated Press opted to not declare a winner of the Democratic caucuses.
But it doesn’t really matter. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses have never been about the exact results as much as they have been about what the results do for the campaigns as they move into the other early voting states. From that perspective, the caucuses still performed their function.
Buttigieg and Sanders sustained their success and momentum in New Hampshire, where they once again finished 1-2 in a close race. This time Sanders won with 25.7% of the vote to Buttigieg’s 24.4%. And Amy Klobuchar, who surged late in Iowa, kept that momentum into New Hampshire, too, finishing third at 19.8%.
So even for all the kerfuffle over the results reporting, Iowa’s Democratic caucuses still, essentially, performed the same function they always have: whittling the field and propelling some candidates forward.
And Democrats made more caucus history. Buttigieg’s win — narrow, unclear and contested though it may be — is the first by an openly gay candidate. That follows the first win by a woman (Hillary Clinton in 2016) and first by a black candidate (Barack Obama in 2008).
That doesn’t mean national leaders and others will see things the same way. Iowa Democrats will have a tougher time than ever defending their first-in-the-nation status over the coming months and years.
The good news is it appears, at the very least, it’s finally over and we all can move on.
What’s this? The Sanders campaign is challenging the caucus recount results?
Sigh. Never mind. See you here again soon.