In New Hampshire Thursday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders declared victory – in the Iowa Caucuses.
“What I want to do today, three days late, is to thank the people of Iowa, for the strong victory they gave us at the Iowa Caucuses Monday night,” Sanders said during an afternoon press conference in Manchester.
NHPR’s senior politics reporter, Josh Rogers, was in Manchester with Sanders. He sat down with All Things Considered host Peter Biello earlier today to recount the scene.
Biello: Sanders says he won the Iowa Caucuses. Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed victory on caucus night. No official winner has been declared. So what's going on?
Rogers: Pete Buttigieg did and does have a slight edge in delegates out of Iowa based on the totals available now. So that was his logic for declaring a win, though he did so without anything official. Sanders' claim is based on the number of total votes cast. He told us today that, with 97 percent of precincts counted in Iowa, he has no doubt that he'll have won the most votes:
“Some six thousand more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else. And when six thousand more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory.”
Biello: Now, this press conference was packed with reporters and Sanders took several questions. What stood out?
Rogers: In terms of stuff relevant to New Hampshire, Sanders addressed claims made by Joe Biden when he spoke in Somersworth earlier yesterday: essentially, that if Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee, that President Trump will tar every Democrat as being a socialist. Here's a bit of what Sanders had to say to that:
“Let me tell my good friend Joe that when we're dealing with somebody like Donald Trump, who lies all of the time, he will pin any label that he wants on any candidate. It doesn't really matter.”
Biello: I understand Sanders also weighed in on Mike Bloomberg. He is skipping all the early voting states, but he's spending millions to position himself in later voting states. What did Sanders have to say about him?
Rogers: What Sanders was asked specifically about Mike Bloomberg was about debates and Mike Bloomberg's likely inclusion in future Democratic debates. Sanders said he shouldn't be based on criteria. And, as if to emphasize that, he was standing behind a podium that said "Bernie" and then said "Not Billionaires." Here's what Sanders had to say:
“A guy comes in who does not campaign one bit in Iowa, New Hampshire. He's not on the ballot, I guess, in Nevada or South Carolina, but he's worth 55 billion dollars. And I guess if you're worth 55 billion dollars, you can get the rules changed for a debate. So to answer your question, I think that that is an absolute outrage."
Biello: But first, there is New Hampshire. Did Sanders tip his hand at all about what he's going to do over the next five days to win here?
Rogers: Nothing terribly specific. Recall, he did win big here in 2016, two-to-one over Hillary Clinton, and a lot of that was driven by grassroots support. And in Manchester, he invoked canvassers who he had out working in the then inclement weather, the snow and the rain. And he basically said that's what he's going to be relying on. But it was interesting, in response to a question, he also had to parse what he essentially admitted was a troubling result out of Iowa: that turnout, overall turnout, was well below what it was in 2008. That was a year when Barack Obama won and Democrats really surged in turnout.
And what Sanders said is that his campaign has basically crunched the numbers and that he believes the percentage of voters who participated this year in Iowa, voters under 29, that's a segment of the electorate that Sanders runs strongest in, was actually higher in Iowa this year than it was in 2008. He certainly wants that kind of makeup of the electorate here in New Hampshire. The more young voters, the better for Sanders. And we can expect him to really try to turn those folks out over the next five days.