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Clinton Declared The Winner In Iowa's Democratic Caucuses


And I'm David Greene at Smokey Row, a coffeehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. And after the first contest of the 2016 presidential race, all we know is that it's not even close to being over. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz pulled off a win over Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses here last night. And Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in third with surprising strength. He nearly tied Trump in the end. For much of the night, it wasn't clear who won on the Democratic side. But this morning, the Iowa Democratic Party is reporting that Hillary Clinton has narrowly - narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders. Sanders and Clinton immediately got on planes and flew to New Hampshire overnight. NPR's Tamara Keith was on the Clinton plane. And she joined us a short while ago from Manchester, N.H.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: We were on this flight, and there was no Wi-Fi on the flight. And when we landed, it took a minute for everybody to turn on their phones. And then a round of applause went up from the front of the plane, where the staff was seated. Then Brian Fallon, who's the press secretary, came on the loudspeaker on the plane and announced that the Iowa Democratic Party had declared Hillary Clinton the winner in Iowa. And the staff applauded once again.

GREENE: I mean, this could not have been closer. It sounds like some of these precincts here in Iowa were decided by coin tosses in the end. It looked like, as of yesterday, that yeah, I mean, it - this was really close. So is it even important that Clinton won by such a small margin?

KEITH: Well, the Iowa Democratic Party says these are the closest results in Iowa history. On the plane ride over, the Clinton staff were trying to convince reporters that she had in fact won. And I think that when you are Hillary Clinton, you were a prohibitive front-runner earlier this year, and your staff is on a plane trying to convince reporters that it wasn't a tie but that you actually won. You know, in this stage in campaigns, there's an element of expectations. And they're certainly trying to play the expectations game. Meanwhile, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - maybe he didn't win by the numbers, but he absolutely felt like a winner. And I'm told by my colleague Sam Sanders, who was on the plane with him, that he was in a very good mood on the plane.

GREENE: Well, what happens now as we move to New Hampshire? I mean, this is a place where Bernie Sanders has been ahead in the polls. He's from right next door in Vermont. I mean, this could be, you know, tough territory for Hillary Clinton if she's coming out of Iowa with such a narrow victory and in a state that she might not win.

KEITH: It is incredibly tough territory for Hillary Clinton. And her campaign has sort of been downplaying expectations here in New Hampshire for a couple of months now. They really feel like those polls that show Bernie Sanders way ahead - they're onto something. And that's why the campaign has been repeating this line, well, you know he is from the neighboring state, hoping to not make it look like there's too much Bern-mentum (ph) if he does ultimately win New Hampshire. But, you know, she's planning to campaign hard here. She has two events here later today.

GREENE: And you were, last night, Tam, in a room full of Clinton supporters - and we should say, at a time when it looked like the race was a virtual tie. It hadn't been declared for her yet. But what was the mood at that point?

KEITH: You know, they were in a fairly good mood. You have to remember that this time eight years ago, she was in third place. And it was pretty devastating for a lot of her supporters. And this time, they were trying to have a positive attitude. I talked to a man named Chris Hopkins. He came in from Austin, Texas. He has a pro-Hillary blog, and asked him how he was feeling.

CHRIS HOPKINS: Well, I keep hearing that it looks like it's a done deal, and she did say she breathed a sigh of relief. So I'm just - I'm waiting on the results like everybody else, and yeah, it's so close. It's amazing. I didn't think it would be this close.

KEITH: And that just gives you a sense of the great uncertainty that there was, you know, well after she left the ballroom last night.

GREENE: And tell me a little bit about what Hillary Clinton had to say, Tam, again, we should say at a time when, you know, the results were not clear.

KEITH: She came out on stage while Ted Cruz was giving his victory speech, and many networks interrupted and went over to her speech. And she got up and said that she was breathing a sigh of relief and that she was looking forward to a very serious debate with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. And now that Martin O'Malley is out of the race, it will be a one-on-one matchup. They will be able to, in upcoming debates and in stump speeches on the trail, debate ideas.

GREENE: All right, we should say, as you said, our colleague Sam Sanders is with Bernie Sanders' campaign, and we're going to be hearing from him and get a sense of the mood from that campaign elsewhere on the show. Martin O'Malley, as you mentioned, former Maryland governor, was the third candidate in this race. He has now dropped out. Just briefly, Tam, what happened to his aspirations?

KEITH: You know, it was sort of a failure to lift off. He really never got above low single digits. I think that Bernie Sanders took a lot of the steam away from him. He was supposed to be the young guy that got young people excited, that was the vision of the future. And Bernie Sanders just really captured that.

GREENE: Well, Tam, in case you were wondering, I know you flew out of Iowa, the snow has now started here. I don't know what the weather is there in New Hampshire, but you're missing, potentially, the blizzard starting here.

KEITH: Well, it's freezing cold here, but there is no snow. So maybe it'll get here in a couple days.

GREENE: There you go. All right, NPR's Tamara Keith who, on very little sleep, has landed with the Clinton campaign in Manchester, N.H. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.

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