Liveblog: Dispatches From the Iowa Caucuses

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Caucus workers check in voters prior to the Republican Party Caucus at Keokuk High School on February 1, 2016 in Keokuk, Iowa. Photo: MICHAEL B. THOMAS

Welcome to Daily Intelligencer’s liveblog of the Iowa caucuses! While it may already feel like the 2016 race has been dragging on for years (and in a way, it has), tonight the race starts in earnest, with Iowans casting the first votes for the two parties’ presidential nominees. New York’s political team will be bringing you updates throughout the night, with Ed Kilgore reporting from Iowa. Let’s get this election started!

The Latest:

  • Ted Cruz has won the GOP race in Iowa. Trump finished second, and Rubio came in third.
  • Clinton is leading Sanders by less than one percent.
  • Mike Huckabee and Martin O’Malley have suspended their campaigns.

11:56 p.m. CST: Here’s where the Republicans stand, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Cruz: 27.7 percent, 8 delegates
Trump: 24.3 percent, 7 delegates
Rubio: 23.1 percent, 6 delegates
Carson: 9.3 percent, 2 delegates
Paul: 4.5 percent, 1 delegate
Bush: 2.8 percent
Fiorina: 1.9 percent
Kasich: 1.9 percent
Huckabee: 1.8 percent
Christie: 1.8 percent
Santorum: 1 percent
Gilmore: 0 percent

And here’s the Democratic race.

Clinton: 49.8 percent, 21 delegates
Sanders:
49.6 percent, 21 delegates
O’Malley: 0.6 percent

10:48 p.m. CST: Sanders enters his rally to chants of “Feel the Bern.” He notes that at the beginning of the race, his campaign was “taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America.” “Tonight while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie,” he adds.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Secretary Clinton and her organization for waging a vigorous campaign,” Sanders continues. He also thanks O’Malley, saying, “It’s never easy to lose,” but he ran a good campaign and “won the respect of the American people.”

10:33 p.m. CST: Clinton thanks O’Malley and says, “I am excited about really getting into the debate with Senator Sanders about the best way forward for America.”

10:30 p.m. CST: Clinton says, "I am a progressive — who gets things done for people. I am honored to stand in a long line of American reformers who make up our minds that the status quo is not enough, standing still is not an option."

10:28 p.m. CST: Hillary Clinton is taking the stage to “Fight Song,” but Ted Cruz is still speaking. CNN has them in split screen. Clinton’s lead over Sanders is still less than one percent.

10:18 p.m. CST: After thanking God, Ted Cruz declared, “Tonight is a victory for the grass roots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation.” He said Iowa has sent a message that the next GOP nominee will not be chosen by the media or the GOP Establishment, but by “we the people, the American people.”

10:15 p.m. CST: Donald Trump really didn’t prepare his supporters for this possibility.

10:11 p.m. CST: Martin O’Malley announced he’s suspending his campaign, and CNN didn’t even broadcast his speech.

10:03 p.m. CST: The Democratic race literally came down to a coin toss in one precinct.

9:54 p.m. CST: Trump was upbeat in a speech to his supporters. He commended Huckabee, and made only a fleeting reference to Cruz, saying, "Congrats to my friend Ted."

But his main focus was winning the general election. “We will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie, or whoever the hell they throw out there,” Trump said. Then he closed by declaring he may come back to Iowa and “buy a farm.”

9:40 p.m. CST: Clinton’s lead over Sanders is now razor-thin.

9:39 p.m. CST: Rubio is making a celebratory speech to his followers, though it’s still unclear if he’s in second or third place. “They told me my hair wasn’t gray enough and my boots were too high. They told me I needed to wait my turn, that I needed to wait in line. But tonight in Iowa the people sent a very clear message: after seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer to take our country back!” Rubio said.

9:28 p.m. CST: Mike Huckabee beat Martin O’Malley to it.

9:26 p.m. CST: CNN and CNBC are projecting that Ted Cruz has won the GOP Iowa caucus.

9:21 p.m. CST: Among Democrats, there’s only a one percent gap between Clinton and Sanders. On the Republican side, Cruz is still in the lead, with Trump and Rubio battling for second place.

9:18 p.m. CST: An O’Malley source told Yahoo, “In a tough, unprecedented year, O’Malley spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate and remained the most accessible. He ran an energetic and honorable campaign — leading the field with the most bold progressive policy proposals, and he successfully pushed the other candidates on gun safety, immigration, and climate policy.”

9:13 p.m. CST: CNN, NBC News, and CBS News are also reporting that O’Malley is about to suspend his campaign. According to the Washington Post, he only captured one percent of the vote in Iowa.

9:01 p.m. CST: Apparently someone is suspending their campaign tonight. O’Malley will reportedly make the official announcement in about half an hour.

8:57 p.m. CST: Someone said a naughty word on MSNBC, and Brian Williams tried to console a traumatized nation.

8:55 p.m. CST: Meanwhile, on the Democratic side:

8:50 p.m. CST: Our first projection of the night!

8:45 p.m. CST: Rubio is currently in third place behind Cruz and Trump. Many on Twitter, including a member of Team Cruz, feel Fox News is a bit too excited about this.

8:36 p.m. CST: Tonight in sentences we never thought we’d be typing a year ago: Ben Carson puts out a statement explaining that he isn’t booking it out of Iowa because he’s ending his campaign; he just needs some fresh clothes.

8:33 p.m. CST: A lot can change in four years.

8:24 p.m. CST: According to exit polls from NBC News, Clinton has a three-point lead over Sanders (51 percent versus 48 percent), and Cruz has a three-point lead over Trump (30 percent versus 27 percent). However, both races are still too close to call.

8:22 p.m. CST:

8:20 p.m. CST:

8:16 p.m. CST:

7:59 p.m. CST: Early reports suggest a high turnout at the caucuses. As New York’s Eric Levitz writes: “Turnout is critical in any election, but it’s expected to be an even more important variable in tonight’s close contests. Both Sanders and Trump draw much of their support from potential first-time caucusgoers. The trouble with first-time voters is they’re uniquely liable to become next-time voters. Thus, conventional wisdom suggests that the higher the turnout, the better the chances one or both anti-Establishment candidates will win the night.”

7:56 p.m. CST: Maybe Bill de Blasio isn’t as unpopular among Iowa voters as we thought.

7:56 p.m. CST:

7:50 p.m. CST: Precinct 47 Democrats divided, Sanders 85 votes, Clinton 83 votes after O’Malley’s 8 votes "realigned." Much excitement among Bernie people, but in the end, Sanders and Clinton split the six delegates awarded here evenly. —Ed Kilgore

7:48 p.m. CST: Precinct 47 GOP results:
Paul: 12 votes
Rubio: 12 votes
Trump: 7 votes
Carson: 3 votes
Kasich: 1 votes
Huckabee: 1 votes
Fiorina: 2 votes
Carson: 2 votes
Cruz: 3 votes
Bush: 2 votes

Ed Kilgore

7:46 p.m. CST: O’Malley supporters holding strong:

7:40 p.m. CST: In the large precinct 55 Democratic caucus, located west of the Des Moines River (finally got my geography straight!), attendance is producing a bit of a crisis. The auditorium (the largest venue available here at the State Historical Building) is overflowing, and people are still signing in and/or registering to vote. As of 7:37, unclear when they will be able to start the actual caucusing. —Ed Kilgore

7:38 p.m. CST: Candidates are allowed to have speeches made on their behalf in the Republican caucuses. In precinct 47, there were just three: for Christie, Carson, and Paul. Clearly not a typical precinct. —Ed Kilgore

7:24 p.m. CST: Entrance polling from CBS News shows Clinton and Trump in the lead.

7:31 p.m. CST: Scene you won’t see in other early voting states:

7:24 p.m. CST: In the 47th precinct, reported to be one of the most diverse in the state, the first division of preference groups shows a narrow majority for HRC. Eight for O’Malley out of 168. —Ed Kilgore

7:19 p.m. CST: Carly Fiorina is at the same caucus site as Trump. Awkward!

7:14 p.m. CST: Trump makes an appearance at a West Des Moines caucus site, says he’s feeling confident (but when is he not?):

7:12 p.m. CST: A snack war is breaking out among the Democrats:

7:05 p.m. CST: CNN has a “breaking” update on the state of the Democratic race:

7:03 p.m. CST: The GOP caucus for precinct 47 is about to begin. There are maybe 30 people here — about a fourth of the crowd for the Democratic caucus for the same precinct and a small fraction of the Democrats here for precinct 55.  

While waiting for this even to start, I can report that "just like 2008" is a phrase Democrats are beginning to use. —Ed Kilgore

7:01 p.m. CST: No one can give me an authoritative comparison of turnout here in the downtown Des Moines precincts with 2008, but it’s clearly high. Precinct 55 (south of the river) has a massive crowd that will overwhelm the available space. The Bernie people still seem to have a majority, but Hillary’s folks are showing up, too. —Ed Kilgore

6:37 p.m. CST: I’m at the downtown Des Moines caucus site for both parties (three Democratic and three Republican precincts), and the scene is very Bernie-rific. Early arrivals (caucusing actually begins at 7 CST) are dominated by Sanders supporters, mostly very young. This is a very Democratic area, so (according to a Christie supporter who spoke with me) there won’t be a whole lot of GOPers around. —Ed Kilgore