Clinton takes caucuses — barely

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Democratic Party declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Iowa Caucuses Tuesday afternoon, leaving both campaigns working to claim the narrative over what her slim margin over Sen. Bernie Sanders means.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the state party said Clinton won 700.59 state delegates to Sanders’ 696.82. Clinton won 49.8 percent of the available state delegates, while Sanders secured 49.6 percent. The close result is somewhat of a disappointment for Clinton, who pundits largely believed would easily defeat the Vermont senator, who was unknown on the national stage when he launched his campaign last May.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters from the bed of a pickup truck after arriving in New Hampshire early Tuesday morning. (Courtesy photo from the Sanders campaign)

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters from the bed of a pickup truck after arriving in New Hampshire early Tuesday morning. (Courtesy photo from the Sanders campaign)

The political scene in Iowa was quiet Tuesday after the candidates and most of the media following them cleared out late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. The frenetic activity at campaign offices around the state just a day earlier was already becoming a distant memory as the focus shifted to New Hampshire.

But the question of how Iowa will impact New Hampshire is lingering. Turnout was relatively high for the Iowa Democratic caucuses, which Sanders said in the days leading up to them that he would need to win. It was higher than average but nowhere near the record turnout out in 2008 when President Barack Obama defeated Clinton.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Dr. Andy McGuire said 171,109 Democrats attended caucuses Monday. It was far less than the nearly 240,000 Democrats who caucused in 2008.

The contest between Clinton and Sanders was “an historically close Iowa Democratic Caucus that featured one of our strongest turnouts ever and passion and energy from Democrats all across our state,” McGuire said.

Clinton, who like Sanders boarded a chartered flight to New Hampshire late Monday night, was quick to claim victory in the Granite State. Clinton said she is “so thrilled I am coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa.”

“I’ve won and I’ve lost there and it’s a lot better to win,” she said at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H.

The close nature of the race left both campaigns looking to shape the narrative heading into the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. Clinton’s campaign said it was a clear victory for their side because Sanders got the high turnout he wanted and still came up short.

Sanders camp, meanwhile, noted that Sanders nearly toppled Clinton’s vaunted campaign and claimed half of the available delegates.

“Last night in Iowa we took on the most powerful political organization in this country. Last night we came back from a 50 point deficit in the polls. And last night we began the political revolution, not just in Iowa, not just in New Hampshire, but all over this country,” Sanders said at a rally in Keene, N.H., Tuesday afternoon.

Sanders was greeted early Tuesday morning by a large crowd in Bow, N.H., that had gathered to welcome him. After disembarking from his plane, Sanders declared from the bed of a pickup truck that his strong showing in Iowa had “astounded the world.”

“Now in New Hampshire we’re going to astound the world again,” he said.

How the Iowa results are digested by voters in New Hampshire could help shape the race there. Sanders holds a massive lead over Clinton in the latest polls, but if voters perceive her narrow victory positively it could provide momentum to help narrow that gap.

In Iowa, it was clear that Sanders’ supporters believe his strong showing in Iowa amounts to a win. They showed no intention of abandoning Sanders in favor of Clinton any time soon.

When the former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady told her supporters Monday night that she is “a progressive who gets things done,” it drew a thundering chorus of boos from the Sanders party as it played on two massive screens. When she said she would “finish the job of universal health care” the Sanders room booed again. When the video screen froze the boisterous Sanders supports cheered.

neal.goswami@timesargus.com

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