“Tonight while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie,” the Vermont senator told supporters after the close of the caucuses, the first nominations contest in the long 2016 presidential race.
Clinton, who lost in Iowa to now-President Barack Obama, had been hoping to deal a solid blow to her upstart challenger this time around.
But with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton was clinging to a razor thin lead with 49.9 percent against to 49.6 percent for Sanders.
Addressing supporters after the vote, she made no direct comment on the result, saying only that she looked forward to a “real contest of ideas” with her rival.
But Sanders was jubilant as he took the stage in a packed hotel ballroom close to Des Moines airport, where enthusiastic supporters waved signs saying “A future to believe in” and chanting “Bernie! Bernie!”
The result further strengthens Sanders’ hand in the upcoming contest in New Hampshire — which neighbors his Vermont constituency.
“The reason that we have done so well here in Iowa, the reason I believe we’re going to do so well in New Hampshire, and in the other states that follow, the reason is, the American people are saying, no to a rigged economy,” Sanders told the crowd.
“We do not represent the interests of the billionaire class, Wall Street or corporate America,” said the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist.
Benjamin Erkan, a 26-year-old volunteer for his campaign, said the duel with Clinton “wasn’t an uphill battle.”
“It was a mountain scaling up a vertical wall with an adversary who had a temperature-controlled escalator, and we met her at the top.”
“The main thing Hillary has against us is the false statement that Bernie is not electable.
“Tonight has proven that this is not true.”