The Iowa Democratic Party finally announced a winner of the state's caucus Tuesday afternoon.
With 62 percent of Iowa precincts reporting the results of Monday's caucus, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg led all candidates with 26.9 percent of state delegate equivalents. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) was a close second with 25.1 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in third with 18.3 percent. Most notably, former vice president Joe Biden placed a distant fourth at 15.6 percent.
In terms of the (partial) popular vote, Sanders led narrowly with 28,220 votes to Buttigieg's 27,030. Warren got 22,254 votes, and Biden just 14,176. Poll watchers are declaring the race too close to call at this point.
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Tony Price apologized Tuesday for the delay in releasing the results, but expressed confidence in the accuracy of the data. Those results were expected to be made public Monday evening, but the state party was forced to postpone the release in order to conduct "quality control" measures made necessary by "inconcistencies" in the precinct reporting.
While it is difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from the partial results unveiled Tuesday, it is certainty an embarrassing outcome for Biden, who has time and again proven himself unworthy of the "frontrunner" status suggested by his strength in national polling.
Many election observers had predicted the outcome in Iowa would be humiliating for Biden, especially after his campaign sought to indefinitely postpone the release of the precinct results after the state Democratic Party scrambled to assess the accuracy of the data. Biden campaign surrogates took to the airwaves Tuesday to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the caucus results, while CNN reported that the campaign was considering filing a injunction to prevent the release of those results.
At this point, Biden might be wondering if he shouldn't have heeded the advice of his former boss, who has thus far refused to endorse him. "You don't have to do this, Joe, you really don't," former President Barack Obama reportedly told Biden before the former vice president launched his campaign.
Even Biden's traditional allies in the media were not impressed. "Joe Biden has run for president before and he's never done well," said CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Even in his prime was still losing presidential races." Biden has never won a Democratic primary or caucus throughout his political career, despite this being his third attempt at running for president since 1988.
Buttigieg, 38, was quick to declare victory (again) on Tuesday, delivering a short televised address from the campaign trail in New Hampshire. "They're not complete, but results are in from a majority of precincts, and they show our campaign in first place," said Buttigieg, robotically.
The Sanders campaign took a victory lap as well. "We are gratified that in the partial data released so far it’s clear that in the first and second round more people voted for Bernie than any other candidate in the field," said senior adviser Jeff Weaver. The candidate himself, however, said he was disappointed by the lower-than-expected voter turnout in Iowa.
Election watchers noted that the final Iowa results were likely to favor Sanders, which would put the socialist candidate in an even stronger position as the primary contest moves to New Hampshire, where Sanders currently enjoys a commanding lead, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.