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A Late Night (And Early Morning): Iowa Caucus Results Delayed

People stand around a table and look over papers.
Henry Epp
Caucus officials in Ankeny-11 count alignment cards Monday night. Sanders won the precinct with 61 votes, followed by Warren with 52 votes, Biden with 42 votes, Buttiegieg with 38 votes and two votes uncommitted to any candidate.

Following difficulties with precincts reporting outcomes, the winner of the Iowa Caucus was unknown early Tuesday morning.  VPR's Henry Epp was there for the long, result-free night  — here's what he saw and heard.

Before outcome, an optimistic message

Like the other candidates, Sanders eventually decided to make a speech without knowing the results. He took the stage at his watch party in Des Moines well after 10 p.m. local time, and immediately acknowledged the bizarre situation.

"Let me begin by stating, I imagine, have a strong feeling, that at some point, the results will be announced," he said. "And when those results are announced, I have a good feeling, we're going to be doing very, very well in Iowa."

Sanders then went on to give his standard stump speech, saying he's committed to beating President Donald Trump and to enacting Medicare for All, free public college, and climate change initiatives.

And in Ankeny?

Hours before the unprecedented cliffhanger, Iowans partook in the traditional caucus process, where they show up to their precinct, and physically join groups supporting each candidate. In Ankeny, a suburb of Des Moines, the precinct met in an event space within a new, mixed-use development. The Sanders precinct captain was Brian McLain, whom VPR followed on Sunday.

McLain predicted that former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg would all do well, but that Sanders would come out on top.

"And I'm just kind of curious how much we're going to take it by," McLain said.

During the caucus, the four candidates touted by McLain crossed the 15% threshold to be declared viable. Sanders got 61 votes, Warren 52 votes, Biden 42 votes and Buttigieg had 38 votes. Those choices get divvied into state delegates. Sanders walked away with three delegates, while his three top rivals each landed two delegates.

A person wears a green shirt with "Warren Precinct Captain" written on it.
Credit Henry Epp / VPR
A precinct captain for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Ankeny-11 caucus in Iowa.

Next up: New Hampshire

Even without Iowa results, the campaign has shifted to New Hampshire, where voters will go the actual polls, not a caucus, on Tuesday Feb. 11. Sanders, who has unveiled a series of campaign events in the Granite State, said he has momentum.

"And now it is on to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, California, and onward to victory. Thank you all very much."

A set of doors with two Bernie Sanders signs.
Credit Henry Epp / VPR
The Bernie Sanders campaign party in Iowa.

Sanders seemed optimistic, and for a while it seemed like he might come back out to address the crowd if results came in. But then, just before midnight Iowa time, campaign surrogate Nina Turner told the crowd the event was over.

"So the Senator is not coming back out tonight, but I want you to keep your faith and keep your fire, baby," she said.

Later in the night, the Sanders campaign released its own results, based on the campaign’s internal reporting from 40% of precincts. The Iowa Democratic Party plans to release results Tuesday, according to media reports.

See NPR's results from the Iowa Caucus below:


Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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