Iowa, a state where Clinton had a far superior ground organization and where she had established a presence months before Sanders, ended in a near tie. For Clinton, the too-close-to victory blunts her momentum going into New Hampshire, where polls show Sanders has a sizable advantage.
But Clinton’s aides said that they viewed Iowa as “tailor-made” for Sanders, and that despite his advantages with the state’s liberal Democratic base, he was unable to win.
“Sanders has been saying for several weeks that if this caucus was a high turnout affair, then he would win,” said Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon. “He was wrong."
The election drew more than 171,000 Democratic voters and the results remained so close that Andy McGuire, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, called it "historically close." By the end of the night, Clinton and Sanders were separated by just one national delegate and fewer than a handful of state delegates.
Clinton's campaign insists that it is impossible for Sanders to win the state (at best, he could tie Clinton for delegates) given the precinct tallies that remain outstanding; they say their projections say the remaining precincts lean in their favor.
"We believe strongly that we won tonight," Fallon said.
Late on Monday night, as the caucus result were still rolling in, Clinton thanked her supporters and told them they allowed her to “breath a big sigh,” but she stopped short of outright declaring victory in the race.
Clinton campaign, however, insisted that it is Sanders who failed to meet expectations.
According to Fallon, the results show that Clinton supporters were helping to drive strong turnout, and he suggested that as Sanders prepares to compete in March contests, the Iowa caucuses had exposed a weak link.
"He focuses on the fact that he’s going to be able to amass delegates in the caucus states,” Fallon said. "And so for us to emerge with a win tonight in a state that was tailor made for him to be successful is a tribute to the candidates message and yes, the ground operation."