Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jane O'Meara Sanders at a campaign watch party in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday night
Updated at 5:37 a.m.
The outcome of the Iowa caucuses remained far from certain late Monday as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took the stage in Des Moines, but that didn’t stop him from declaring a victory of sorts.
“Let me begin by stating that I imagine — I have a strong feeling — that at some point the results will be announced,” he said to cheers from supporters. “And when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa.”
Scattered reports from precincts across the Hawkeye State seemed to confirm that suspicion. But citing “inconsistencies” in data reported by caucus chairs, Iowa Democratic Party officials refused to release results.
Sen. Bernie Sanders greets supporters at his watch party Monday night in Des Moines
At Sanders’ watch party at a Holiday Inn in Des Moines, staffers scrambled to get Sanders onstage as rival candidates delivered their own quasi-victory speeches. Supporters were herded up on risers and began chanting, “Bernie beats Trump!” and the campaign slogan, “Not me, us!”
Sanders used his time on national television to deliver a condensed version of the stump speech he’s been giving in Iowa for nearly a year. And he took the opportunity to take on President Donald Trump directly. “Tonight, in this enormously consequential 2020 election, the first state in the country has voted and today — today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump!” he said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses supporters Monday night in Des Moines
Sanders thanked his campaign, calling it “the strongest movement this country has ever seen.”
“And now it is on to New Hampshire, South Carolina, California and onward to victory!” he said.
After Sanders concluded his remarks, campaign cochair Nina Turner took the stage and said that the candidate might reemerge later in the night if results were released. One by one, national surrogates followed her to the podium and delivered speeches to keep the crowd engaged. But just past midnight Central time, Turner told the crowd that the show was over.
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders at his watch party Monday night in Des Moines
As partygoers exited the building, the Sanders campaign attempted to regain control of the message by releasing its own internal results. The figures, which the campaign said represented 40 percent of Iowa precincts, showed Sanders leading, followed by former mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former vice president Joe Biden.
“We recognize that this does not replace the full data from the Iowa Democratic Party, but we believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have the results of that work delayed,” Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders’ campaign, said in a statement.
Rick Smith, a precinct chair in Urbandale, Iowa, addresses caucus-goers Monday night
At one caucus in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines, Sanders had a fairly strong showing. At first count, 81 of the precinct’s 311 caucus-goers backed the senator from Vermont. Sixty-five stood with Warren, 60 with Buttigieg and 48 with Biden.
With just 35 supporters, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) fell short of the 15 percent “viability” threshold of 47 people, as did half a dozen other candidates.
As Sanders’ precinct captain, it was up to Katie Leeper, a 30-year-old art teacher, to track his supporters and persuade the undecided. “He listens to us. He listens to the people,” Leeper said, hailing what she said was Sanders’ “honesty, integrity and authenticity.”
Louis Hoehle taking part in the Iowa caucuses Monday in Urbandale, Iowa
Louis Hoehle, a 17-year-old high school student, agreed. “I’ve been following Bernie Sanders for a long time,” he said. “I think he’s the best one to take on corporations and be there for the little guy.”
After the initial count, precinct chair Rick Smith called on those whose candidates had been eliminated to find a new champion. Aaron Bopp, a 20-year-old college student, stood with other supporters of entrepreneur Andrew Yang and sported the campaign’s trademark MATH hat. Once his candidate was eliminated, he said, he planned to move to the Sanders camp. “Though he’s a lifelong politician, he’s still an outsider,” Bopp said of the senator from Vermont.
Colin Scanes, a 72-year-old consultant with a British accent, served as Klobuchar’s precinct captain. When she was eliminated, he convinced other supporters of hers to back Warren, calling the Massachusetts senator “sincere” and a good listener.
Christine Norris taking part in the Iowa caucuses Monday night in Urbandale
Christine Norris was the only caucus-goer in Urbandale who remained undecided during the first round. She stood in the middle of the room with her 15-month-old child in a stroller. “They all have good points,” she said, citing childcare as the issue she cared about most. A Buttigieg supporter who once lived in the candidate’s hometown of South Bend, Ind., persuaded her to join his side. “She let me know what kind of person he was,” Norris said.
By the end of the night, Sanders' lead in the precinct had evaporated. In the final tally, he and Buttigieg both had the support of 84 caucus-goers, while Warren had 78 and Biden 58. The top three candidates were awarded three delegates apiece and Biden collected two.