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Iowa caucuses live blog: Clinton, Sanders deadlocked

February 6, 2016


Sen. Ted Cruz scored a hard-fought upset win over businessman Donald Trump in the Iowa Republican caucuses Monday night, while former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders were locked in a virtual dead heat on the Democratic side with most of the votes counted. Read more

The Take: Iowa caucuses leave Republican and Democratic contests far from settled
The Fix:
How Ted Cruz won Iowa

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

SOCIAL STUDIES | At the opening of the debate, Ted Cruz addressed his feud with Ben Carson over actions taken by Cruz’s campaign on the night of the Iowa caucuses. (To learn the backstory, click here.) Part of Cruz’s explanation is that CNN made mistakes in reporting Carson’s plans not to go immediately to New Hampshire and South Carolina from Iowa.

Well, CNN doesn’t see it that way, and they’re tired of Cruz suggesting they were in error. Here’s a statement from the network released tonight:

Here’s what Cruz said, per our running transcript:

Let me tell you the facts of what occurred for those who are interested in knowing. On Monday night, about 6:30 p.m., CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Rather, he was, quote, “Taking a break from campaigning.”

They reported that on television, CNN’s political anchors, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer, said it was highly unusual and highly significant. My political team saw CNN’s report breaking news and they forwarded that news to our volunteers, it was being covered on live television.

Now, at the time, I was at the caucuses, I was getting ready to speak at the caucuses just like Ben was, just like everyone else was. I knew nothing about this. A couple hours later, I found out about it. I was told that Ben was unhappy. I called him that evening because I respect him very, very highly. I didn’t reach him that evening.

I reached him the next day and apologized. He asked me then, he said, Ted, would you make this apologize in public? I said, yes, I will. And I did so. I regret that subsequently, CNN reported on that — they didn’t correct that story until 9:15 that night. So from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15, that’s what CNN was reporting.

Subsequent to that initial report, Ben’s campaign put out a statement saying that he was not suspending his campaign. I wish that our campaign staff had forwarded that statement. They were unaware of it, I wish that they had, that’s why I apologized.

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked flatly if he would visit a mosque as president. He said he would.

Rubio raised the issue earlier this week, when he criticized President Obama’s mosque visit. Here’s Rubio at a campaign stop in New Hampshire earlier this week:

“Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque,” Rubio continued. “Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves.”

“But again, it’s this constant pitting people against each other — that I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly,” Rubio said. “We can disagree on things, right? I’m a Dolphin fan, you’re a Patriot fan.”

Rubio repeated the general thrust of his argument tonight.

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·
Sen. Marco Rubio and  businessman Donald Trump. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Sen. Marco Rubio and businessman Donald Trump. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

THE CONTENDERS | Much of what Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says in the debates sounds similar to what he says on the campaign trail. Very, very similar.

Here’s what Rubio said about the Islamic State at a Tuesday rally in Exeter, N.H.:

“This is an apocalyptic group who believes that their job is to trigger the end of the world and the rise of Mahdi, their messianic figure, by triggering an Armageddon-style showdown in a city named Dabiq in northern Syria. This is a dangerous group.”

And here’s Rubio at tonight’s debate:

“We need to understand who they are. ISIS is not just a jihadist group, they’re an apocalyptic group. They want to trigger a showdown in a city named Dabiq between the West and themselves which they believe will trigger the arrival of their messianic figure.”

Some praise Rubio for diligently hewing to a consistent message. His rivals have a different description of the same responses, calling them canned answers to tough questions.

  • James Hohmann
  • ·

He wants to talk foreign policy now. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

THE CONTENDERS | In past debates, the retired neurosurgeon seemed unprepared and anything but eager to field questions about national security. The result was word salad that made him sound out of his depth.

That was a factor in his decline in the polls, especially after the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Now, grasping for relevance in the race, Carson has been chomping at the bit to weigh in on foreign policy tonight.

He complained that he was the only candidate not asked to respond to North Korea’s missile test in the hours before the debate.

Then, later, Carson tried to claim credit for talking about foreign policy more than other candidates.

“I’ve been talking about Libya for a long time,” he said. “I think I was the first one to start talking about it.”

He added: “None of us up here is a military expert.”

  • Michelle Ye Hee Lee
  • ·

“Let me tell you the facts of what occurred for those who are interested in knowing. On Monday night, about 6:30 p.m., CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Rather, he was, quote, ‘Taking a break from campaigning.’ They reported that on television, CNN’s political anchors, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer, said it was highly unusual and highly significant. My political team saw CNN’s report breaking news and they forwarded that news to our volunteers, it was being covered on live television.”

–Ted Cruz

THE FACT CHECKER | In explaining how his campaign team falsely told Iowa caucus-goers that Ben Carson had was dropping out of the race, Cruz falsely blamed CNN’s reporting.

The night of the Iowa caucus, CNN reporter Chris Moody tweeted at 7:41 p.m. that Carson had planned to catch a flight before caucus results were in. Moody added that Carson was “just making a brief stop at home in FL tonight and campaign says he’ll be back on the campaign trail by Wednesday.”

Then, during the network’s live coverage, CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash called Carson’s decision “very unusual,” according to CNN’s media reporter Dylan Byers. But Tapper and Bash — whom Cruz named during Saturday’s debate — didn’t say Carson was dropping out, Byers wrote.

Cruz backer Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) then retweeted Moody along with a message: “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope.”  Then the campaign sent a message to Iowa supporters suggesting Carson was dropping out.

The day after the Iowa caucus, Cruz apologized to Carson and said his campaign staff were citing a CNN report. CNN said in response that it “had not characterized Carson’s actions that way.”

After Cruz repeated this claim during the debate, CNN said in a statement: “What Senator Cruz said tonight in the debate is categorically false. CNN never corrected its reporting because CNN never had anything to correct. The Cruz campaign’s actions the night of the Iowa caucuses had nothing to do with CNN’s reporting. The fact that Senator Cruz continues to knowingly mislead the voters about this is astonishing.”

  • Amber Phillips
  • ·
Republican presidential candidates at the ABC News debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Republican presidential candidates at the ABC News debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

ON THE ISSUES | Given last fall’s attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., terrorism and national security remain high on the 2016 topics list.

Polls show that a large majority of Americans are fearful of another terrorist attack and doubtful of Obama’s ability to handle it, prompting the president to go on the offensive to highlight how much the United States is, well, on the offensive in Iraq and Syria to battle the Islamic State.

The national focus on terrorism ostensibly works in the Republican Party’s favor. GOP candidates traditionally have earned more trust on national security issues from voters than Democrats have. But the most hawkish among the bunch, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), dropped out of the race in December and endorsed Bush. Graham said he wanted to put as many as 10,000 troops on the ground. No other candidate has gone that far — especially as Republicans recall the war weariness that marked the draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, though their tone will be different than Obama’s — including on whether to call it “radical Islam” — their actual proposals have in many cases not differed in big and clear ways, either from Obama or from one another.

Plus, a Washington Post poll in November found Hillary Clinton is the most trusted 2016 candidate on terrorism.

  • Glenn Kessler
  • ·

Not quite right. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

“They [China] have total, absolute control, practically, of North Korea.”

–Donald Trump

THE FACT CHECKER | Not by a long shot. China has leverage over its client state, given that much of Pyongyang’s international trade is with Beijing — but how much leverage is subject to debate. Moreover, China is often reluctant to use that leverage, because officials view North Korea has a useful buffer state with South Korea. A collapse of North Korea—and reunification on the Korean Peninsula — is not currently viewed in China’s interests.

Every American administration has dreamed that China will push North Korea to halt its nuclear ambitions. But China always disappoints.

The limits of China’s leverage are best illustrated by the fact that North Korea has repeatedly tested a nuclear device despite Beijing’s vehement objections. And the unwillingness of China to use even its limited leverage was demonstrated by a New York Times article that appeared the morning of the debate — detailing how China sidestepped United Nations sanctions prohibiting luxury goods to North Korea in order to build a ski resort for North Korea’s leaders.

  • Susan Hogan
  • ·
Republican party volunteers, from left, Marilyn Zimny, Bev Bernholtz and Ella Mueggenberg count votes during a caucus held at Carroll High School in Carroll, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (Jeff Storjohann/Carroll Daily Times Herald via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Republican party volunteers, from left, Marilyn Zimny, Bev Bernholtz and Ella Mueggenberg count votes during a caucus held at in Carroll, Iowa. (Jeff Storjohann/Carroll Daily Times Herald via AP)

Update: as of 3:30 a.m., all put one of the precinct votes had been reported.

As 3 a.m. neared, Democrat results from 10 precincts in eight Iowa counties still had not been reported.

Here’s the list:

Fremont County: 4 of 5 precincts reported

Kossuth County: 19 of 20 precincts reported

Hancock: 9 of 10 precincts reported

Iowa County: 10 of 11 reported

Black Hawk County: 60 of 62 precincts reported

Polk County: 175 of 177 precincts reported

Muscatine County: 22 of 23 precincts reported

Tama County: 15 of 16 precincts reported

  • Ed O'Keefe
  • ·

The numbers aren’t great. USA-ELECTION/BUSH REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl/Files


That’s a rough estimate of how much the super PAC supporting former Florida governor Jeb Bush spent on each vote he earned on Monday night in Iowa.

As of a week ago, Right to Rise USA had spent roughly $14 million on advertising of all sorts in Iowa, according to Washington Post calculations.

On Monday night, Bush earned just 3 percent support in the Iowa caucuses — 5,226 actual votes, according to official tallies.

Divide those millions of ad dollars among the roughly 5,200 votes, and you get $2,710.55.

Again, it’s a rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation — and we’ll update it once we have final results. But those figures shows that despite his fundraising prowess, Bush had a rough night. And it cost him, big time.

  • David Weigel
  • ·

A fourth-place showing. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Taking the stage to cheers of “President Paul,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) found a way to declare a narrow kind of victory in Iowa despite taking just 4 percent of the vote.

“Tonight, the liberty movement beat four sitting governors from the establishment,” Paul told supporters at the Scottish Rite Consistory in Des Moines.

Paul had wanted more from Iowa. Since Donald Trump’s entry into the Republican primary, the Kentucke senator had tumbled to single digits, struggling to build on the organization of his father, former Texas congressman Ron Paul. With 99 percent of precincts counted, Paul had won just 8,263 votes, less than his father in either of his Republican bids for president, and short of the 10,000 votes he hoped to win from college students alone.

But Paul had indeed secured fifth place, and lapped both Bush and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), both of whom he had scrapped with over foreign policy. “Thanks for letting me do this,” Paul told his wife Kelley. In the rest of his brief speech, he dismissed both then continued an argument he’d tried to have with the night’s winners: Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio.

“There will always be people who say, ‘give me power and I’ll take care of you,'” Paul said. “But it’s the revenant, it’s the few, who say — we’re not giving up our liberty, not now, not ever.”

As Paul closed out his caucus campaign, his allies and surrogates, like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), rooted for a fourth place finish but said that finishing fifth was more than enough to keep him in the race.

  • Abby Phillip
  • ·

DES MOINES — Hillary Clinton took the stage here at Drake University with no introduction and no definitive victory to call her own.

But the music that blasted through the speakers said it all: “Fight Song.”

And a fight this has been in Iowa against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the populist crusader against moneyed interests who unexpectedly became a formidable opponent in the Democratic primary.

As Clinton spoke, the race was still too close to call. Her aides and allies declared victory over Sanders, but Clinton only thanked supporters for staving off an outright upset.

“I stand here tonight breathing a big sigh of relief — thank you, Iowa,” she said.

The crowd here remained energized and upbeat throughout the night, despite returns showing the race becoming progressively close. But in the minutes before Clinton took the stage, the gap between the two candidates began widening ever so slightly, and the room exploded with cheers and chants.

Clinton backer, former senator Tom Vilsack, told Clinton’s supporters that although the race is close, “a win is a win.”

“We’re coming out tonight with a win, and we’re going to move ahead for Hillary Clinton,” Vilsack said.

Later, Clinton spoke in stark terms about the debate that Sanders’s candidacy has ignited within the Democratic Party.

“I am a progressive who gets things done for people,” Clinton said.

“Here’s what I want you to know: it is rare, it is rare that we have the opportunity as we do now, to have a real contest of ideas,” she added. “To really think hard about what the Democratic Party stands for and what we want the future of our country to look like if we do our part to build it.”

Clinton says she’s relieved. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Jose A. DelReal
  • ·

WEST DES MOINES — Donald Trump spoke for less than 3 minutes on stage after he was projected to be the second-place finisher in Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

It was an uncharacteristically subdued speech to supporters who said they were expecting a little more…oomph.

“I think based on his speech that he was disappointed tonight — though I thought he’d have a much longer speech,” said Dan Wickett, drinking a beer next to the cash bar.

Trump left the Sheraton here in West Des Moines in a rush ahead of a Tuesday rally in New Hampshire. Just as fast, supporters flooded out of the venue, where the Trump campaign had organized a party to watch the results come back that would hypothetically have turned into a victory rally if the mogul had taken first place.

“He was disappointed, and I was too,” said Monica Baier. “I feel his pain.”

  • Sarah Parnass
  • ·

Lines, lines and more lines: catch a glimpse of what Feb. 1 looked like for caucus-goers in Iowa.

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·

DES MOINES — In a celebratory mood after Sen. Marco Rubio’s projected third-place finish in Iowa, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) took a dig at Donald Trump, who was barely ahead of Rubio for second place in the latest tally.

After a Washington Post reporter noted to him that Rubio did not mention Trump in his speech, Gardner interjected.

“I’m not so sure Iowa did either in their votes,” Gardner said with a laugh.

Gardner said Rubio heads into New Hampshire with a “full head of steam.” He said the endorsement of his colleague, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is “a big deal” in South Carolina, which votes after New Hampshire.

Gardner summed up Rubio’s pitch by calling him “the unity candidate.”

  • Abby Phillip
  • ·

DES MOINES — The Democratic race remains incredibly close, with Sanders and Clinton separated by less than a point with results still streaming in.

But already, the Clinton campaign says that they believe they have won, given the high turnout reported throughout the state.

“Turnout is high, which Sanders campaign always said would benefit them. But we believe we have won tonight,” according to a campaign aide.

Tonight will be all about setting expectations for both campaigns. If Clinton is able to stave off a Sanders victory — or make it incredibly close — despite elevated turnout, they will declare victory. The Sanders team may call it a win either way.

  • Ed O'Keefe
  • ·

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·

DES MOINES — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) struck a confident and optimistic tone in a speech he delivered before supporters Monday night as results showed him running third and inching up on Donald Trump for second place behind caucus winner Sen. Ted Cruz.

“So this this is the moment they said would never happen,” Rubio said. Joined on stage by his wife and children, Rubio called the results a “first step” and an “important step.”

Rubio congratulated Cruz, whom he said “worked really hard.” Rubio also nodded to Mike Huckabee, who ended his bid after a poor showing. He made no mention of Trump.

Rubio hit on many of the themes he often hits on in his stump speech. He cast himself as the most electable Republican and said the November election will be a “referendum on our identity as a nation and as a people.”

The Florida senator closed by vowing to return to Iowa in the fall campaigning as the nominee.

“I am grateful to you Iowa. You believed in me,” said Rubio.

  • Rachel Van Dongen
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | DES MOINES – The party continued at Ted Cruz’s caucus night headquarters, with the crowd loudly cheering as a video about Cruz is shown on a large screen.

A band has been firing up the crowd, playing Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. People are high-fiving, snapping picture, hugging and hoisting drinks. It’s a party.

“That’s priceless,” Ted Sturgill of Des Moines, who was a Cruz precinct captain, said of beating Trump. “You’re fired.”

“I feel the base coming together,” he said. “The polls were wrong. The Des Moines Register was wrong — and they’re never wrong. It makes it sweeter.”

  • Jose A. DelReal
  • ·

WEST DES MOINES — A subdued Donald Trump delivered a brief speech here in Des Moines Monday night after GOP rival Ted Cruz was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses, telling his supporters that he was grateful for their backing, but looking forward to next week’s primary battle in New Hampshire.

“We finished second, and I want to tell you something: I’m just honored,” he said. “I’m really honored and I want to congratulate Ted and I want to congratulate all of the incredible candidates, including [now-former candidate] Mike Huckabee, who has become an incredible friend of mine.”

Trump thanked his staff and his family for joining him on the campaign trail over the weekend in towns across the state. He didn’t take first place, he said, but he’s already proven his strength after being largely dismissed when he announced his presidential campaign in June.

Supporters who gathered at the West Des Moines Sheraton booed as televisions blared a project by CNN declaring Cruz the winner. Many supporters noted his notorious bombast was absent during the speech, which lasted less than three minutes.

“It was short, but about as nice as something could be considering. I was hoping for a ‘rah-rah, we kicked ass’ speech. I was not expecting nice, but I’m very proud of that reaction,” said Austin Bayliss.

  • Natalie Jennings
  • ·

This was the scene inside the GOP caucus site at St. Boniface in Waukee, Iowa. To see the 360 views, use your cursor to scroll around the room. On mobile, open the link in the YouTube app.

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