Hillary Clinton eked out a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses, winning 22 delegates to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 21 delegates—with one delegate left undecided—but the virtual tie was cause for celebration for both candidates.
Clinton touted the narrow win as proof that she’s learned the lessons of her 2008 loss where a disastrous third-place showing in Iowa hobbled her once inevitable candidacy, and proved that she could hold her own when turnout is high thanks to enthusiasm for a rival.
“As I stand here tonight, breathing a big sigh of relief,” Clinton told supporters at a Des Moines rally. “I will keep doing what I’ve done my entire life. I will keep standing up for you. I will keep fighting for you.”
For Sanders, the close outcome in the first-in-the-nation caucus is a testament to his remarkable rise against Clinton’s Establishment-back bid. Sanders, a democratic socialist who became a voice for the left wing of the Democratic Party, has surpassed expectations of party leaders. Despite his apparent loss, he delivered what amounted to a victory speech as well, telling his audience across town that the “people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment to the economic establishment,” he said.
“Nine moths ago when we came to this beautiful state we had no political 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 added.
Barack Obama won Iowa in 2008 with two main ingredients, a soaring, inspirational message of hope and change, and a community organizer’s background that he people applied to great success at the byzantine caucus system. Clinton and Sanders are splitting Obama’s talents in 2016. Sanders is betting that his brand of political revolution will inspire thousands of new and drop off voters to vote, while Clinton has meticulously organized Iowa from the bottom up. On Monday night, voters opted for both, but eventually one will have to win out.
Clinton campaign staff said it was statistically impossible for Sanders to win the final delegate and they were confident that Clinton would ultimately be declared the winner with 23 delegates.
Read More: The Nation Turns to New Hampshire
Both campaigns now turn to New Hampshire where Sanders, from neighboring Vermont, is a heavy favorite. Clinton, meanwhile, is favored to win the states following New Hampshire: Latino-heavy Nevada and African-American rich South Carolina. “We expected this to be competitive,” Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook told TIME in an interview on Monday. “It’s a good thing for our democracy and it’s a good thing for our party. Hillary Clinton has worked harder than any other candidate in this race.”
Clinton now has a real fight on her hands for the nomination—and if 2008 was any indication, being the underdog should spur Clinton’s performance. Mook said they always expected the campaign to last well into the spring, though, he laughed, he didn’t believe that it would go so far as a brokered convention.
Sanders now gets a boost as a real threat rather a long-shot also-ran. His aides have said repeatedly they plan to remain in the race until the Democratic convention in late July, indicating they will spend money against Clinton in the four early states, as well as the Super Tuesday states and beyond.
Even if Sanders ultimately loses the nomination, as is still expected given weakness with minority voters, he has already had a big influence in pulling Clinton to the left. “I am a progressive who gets things done,” Clinton declared in her Monday night speech. “I will not let [Republicans’] divisiveness—their efforts to rip away the progress we’ve made.”
Sanders spent much of the past few days dampening expectations, telling reporters and his supporters that he was planning for a national campaign, win or lose in Iowa. The Vermont Senator’s aides had privately said that the election was a tossup.
“If there is a large voter turnout we will win,” Sanders told a crowd of college students in Iowa City two days before the caucus. “If there is a low voter turnout, if a lot of people don’t turn out, we will lose. What the pundits say is the young people go to rallies, but they’re not going to come out to caucus. So how would you like to make the pundits look dumb on election night?!”
Clinton, meanwhile, emphasized the expansive ground game her organization built and the lessons she learned from her loss eight years ago. “If someone had told Bernie Sanders a week ago that the turn out would be 180,000 voters, he would said he would’ve won,” Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesman told reporters on the press plane bound for New Hampshire Monday night.
The results fired up supporters on both sides. “This is not the beginning of the end. It’s not even the end of the beginning,” said Kurt Schlegel, 44, who drove from Virginia to canvass for Sanders in Iowa. “We’re going to start this all over next week.”
The largely female crowd at the Clinton rally left fired up and sure that she would still go on to win the nomination. “I hope that women get activated for her,” said Kirsten Berg-Painter, a consultant from Des Moines who caucused for Clinton in 2008 and again on Monday. “It’s amazing that in 2016 we’re having to refight battles we won long ago like Planned Parenthood and equal pay. It’s never been more important to have a female president. And no one is more qualified than Hillary.”
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