As the political world waited Monday night for hard numbers in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating calendar, the Iowa Democratic Party was dealing with a debacle -- saying they had found “inconsistencies in the reporting” of the results from caucus precincts across the state.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign took aim at the pending results, questioning the veracity of the eventual final numbers. And Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign released their own incomplete numbers early Tuesday morning, which showed Sanders leading his rivals.
That move was followed a couple of hours later by the Pete Buttigieg campaign, which suggested the former South Bend, Indiana mayor was the winner.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of neighboring Minnesota was the first of the White House contenders to come out and tout her momentum coming out of Iowa.
“We are feeling good tonight,” she emphasized. “We know one thing, we are punching above our weight.”
"All I can say is we are here and we are strong,” stressed Klobuchar – who needed a strong finish in Iowa to boost her bid for the Democratic nomination. “We are now ready to head to New Hampshire.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts started her speech by noting “it’s too close to call.”
But the progressive senator who’s seen her poll numbers decline the past couple of months declared that “tonight we are one step closer to winning the fight for the America we imagine is possible.”
And the senator spotlighted that “we are built for the long haul.”
Buttigieg – who also needed a strong finish in Iowa to help propel his campaign – went a step further than his rivals by declaring victory.
“So we don't know the results. But we know. By the time it's all said and done, you have shocked, the nation,” the former South Bend, Indiana mayor told his supporters. “Because by all indications. We are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”
Biden emphasized in his speech that “it looks like it's going to be a long night but I'm feeling good!"
“From our indication, it’s going to be close and we’re going to walk out of here with our share of delegates. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are. So it’s on to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and beyond. We’re in this for the long haul,” the former vice president stressed.
But Biden raised concerns with the pending results, saying “the Iowa Democratic Party’s working to get this result, to get them straight, and I want to make sure they’re very careful in their deliberations.”
Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield went a step further, warning on Twitter that “the integrity of the process is critical, and there were flaws in the reporting systems tonight that should raise serious concerns for voters.”
And a fundraising email seemed to downplay the eventual Iowa results, reminding supporters to “remember it’s not about tonight, but about the whole campaign. And I need your help to do it."
Political pundits suggested that the Biden campaign – worried that the final results will be disappointing for the former vice president – were pre-emptively downplaying the eventual numbers and questioning their veracity.
Sanders – considered to be in the lead in Iowa according to the final public opinion surveys – told supporters that “I imagine, I have a strong feeling at some point the results will be announced and when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa.”
A couple of hours after the populist senator from Vermont spoke, his campaign released internal reporting numbers which they said represented the results from nearly 40 percent of the caucus precincts in Iowa.
“We recognize that this does not replace the full data from the Iowa Democratic Party, but we believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have the results of that work delayed,” senior adviser Jeff Weaver said.
The Sanders campaign figures indicted the populist senator from Vermont at 30 percent, Buttigieg at 25 percent, Warren at 21 percent, Biden at 12 percent and Klobuchar at 11 percent.
A couple of hours later the Buttigieg campaign also released incomplete internal numbers compiled from reporting by the campaign's precinct captains from across the state.
The numbers suggested Buttigieg winning approximately 25 percent of the final alignment raw vote, and roughly 28 percent of the traditional state delegate equivalent totals.
“Our precinct captains reported full caucus results in 1,259 precincts-- this represents approximately 75 percent of the total precincts and just over 150,000 total votes. We have partial results for another 42 precincts,” the campaign noted.
But Mo Elleithee - the founding executive director of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service and a Fox News contributor – scolded the campaigns.
“If I were all of the campaigns, I’d be privately angry and publicly quiet. Let the process play out so you don’t have another situation like the Republicans had in 2012 where they got it wrong and had to correct it two weeks later. Let the process play out -announce the winner – and then start pouncing on the party to make sure it doesn’t happen again – but for now all this public sniping isn’t helping,” he emphasized.
Elleithee, a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who later served as communications director for the Democratic National Committee, argued that “nobody can declare victory. There’s nothing to declare. Every just gets to wait until tomorrow.”
The chaotic situation brought back memories of the 2012 Republican caucuses, when initial results pointed to a narrow victory by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. It was ultimately revealed that former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was the winner.
Elleithee noted that “the ultimate winners – the people who can claim momentum – are all going to miss out on the opportunity to declare momentum in the moment, so they’re going to have to find other ways to manufacturer it. There’s no winner. There’s just waiting.”