Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigning last week in Indianola, Iowa
Updated at 2:37 p.m.
Three days after the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared Thursday that he had won a “very strong victory” in the first presidential contest.
Speaking at a press conference in Manchester, N.H., Sanders played down the importance of the final delegate allocation and focused instead on the number of votes cast at the start of the caucusing process. By that metric, according to incomplete results available Thursday, he led former mayor Pete Buttigieg by 5,954 votes, or 24.7 percent to 21.3 percent.
“When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory,” Sanders said.
With 97 percent of precincts counted, Buttigieg was leading Sanders in state delegate equivalents by 550 to 547, or 26.2 percent to 26.1 percent. Those are used to determine how many of Iowa’s 41 delegates to the Democratic National Convention are allocated.
At Thursday’s press conference, Sanders chastised “the cable news and political pundits” for spending “so much time pontificating about” the state delegate equivalent count. He called Buttigieg’s slight lead “meaningless” because the two would likely win the same number of delegates to the convention. That outcome, he said, “ain’t gonna change. And what certainly is not going to change is the fact that, in terms of the popular vote, we won a decisive victory.”
Sanders began his remarks by criticizing the Iowa Democratic Party for failing to quickly and accurately tally the results of Monday’s caucuses. “That screwup has been extremely unfair to the people of Iowa,” he said. “It has been unfair to the candidates — all of the candidates — and all of their supporters.”
The senator also slammed the Democratic National Committee for a recent rules change that will likely allow former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to take part in an upcoming debate. “I think it is an outrage,” he said. “Look, rules are rules.”
Other candidates, such as former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, had “played by the rules” and were excluded from later debates, he said. But, referring to Bloomberg’s immense wealth, “I guess if you’re worth $55 billion, you can get the rules changed for a debate.”
Earlier Thursday, Sanders' campaign announced that it had raised $25 million in January in the form of 1.3 million donations from 648,000 people. More than 219,000 of them had not previously donated to the campaign. In total, the campaign has raised $121 million from more than 1.5 million people since Sanders joined the race last February.
Even as Sanders campaigns in New Hampshire ahead of next Tuesday's primary, he is looking ahead to the 14 states that vote March 3 on Super Tuesday.
His campaign announced Thursday that it was increasing staffing levels and investing $5.5 million in television advertising in 10 of those states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. That's on top of the $2.5 million it announced last week in TV ad spending in California and Texas.