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"I think the the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment," said Bernie Sanders on Monday after securing at least a 'virtual tie' with national frontrunner Hillary Clinton in Iowa. (Photo: Getty)

Sanders: 'Virtual Tie' in Iowa Sends Establishment a Profound Message

Sanders acknowledges 'cautious optimism,' but observers recognize key role early victory may have for campaign that has made 'political revolution' its calling card

Jon Queally

The Democratic Iowa caucus was still too close as midnight came and went Monday night with Hillary Clinton holding a less than .5 percent edge over Bernie Sanders with just a handful of precincts left to report.

Flanked by husband Bill and daughter Chelsea, Clinton made no overt claim of victory but indicated her belief that she nudged it out by telling supporters she was "breathing a sigh of relief."

However, following those remarks from the former Secretary of State, Sen. Sanders addressed his supporters and thanked them as he described the situation as "a virtual tie" – one which would leave his campaign with about half of the state's delegates.

"I think the the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment," Sanders said. "That is, given the enomormous crises facing our country it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics."

Later, as his supporters cheered and chanted, Sanders concluded by telling the crowd what he said no other candidate would tell them or the American people. His message, he said, was that no president alone can possibly make the change that it necessary to fix the system that is "rigged" against working people. "That is why," he said, "what Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution."

"Enough is enough!" Sanders concluded. And the crowd went wild.

Watch the speech:

"I think the the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment." —Bernie SandersSubsequently, in an email from the campaign, Sanders repeated his message about the Iowa outcome to his supporters nationwide:

Tonight we accomplished what the corporate media and political establishment once believed was impossible: after trailing Hillary Clinton in Iowa throughout this entire campaign, it looks as if we will leave the state with roughly the same number of delegates. 

I want to be clear with you about what this really means. Tonight’s result is a victory for our political revolution. We have proved that when people come together, anything is possible.  New Hampshire votes next, where we have a slight lead in the polls. If we win there, we’ll have all the momentum.

Offering his organization's take on the results, Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Iowa voters have proved that an appeal to bold and aggressive policies are clearly doing the most to stir voter passions.

"Iowa shows that the progressive movement, and the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party, are booming." —Adam Green, PCCC"Bernie Sanders defied expectations and Hillary Clinton fought Iowa to a virtual tie in the same way -- by appealing to a growing economic populist movement," said Green. "Put simply: both aimed to appeal to progressives by competing to be bolder on everything from Wall Street reform to jailing bankers who broke the law and making college debt free."

Green said that the PCCC's polling has confirmed that an appeal to populism was a winning strategy in Iowa, and will be elsewhere across the country.

"This will likely be a long primary as Clinton and Sanders compete for the enthusiasm of progressive voters," concluded Green. "Any candidate who wants to win beyond Iowa will need to tap into that economic populist energy to get the funding, volunteers, and votes needed to win the primaries and the general election. Iowa shows that the progressive movement, and the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party, are booming."


Will they feel the bern?

Iowa voters across the state will head to their local caucus site tonight at 7 PM Central Time (8 PM ET) to cast the first official votes in this year's battle for the White House.

As precincts from across the state report their numbers, the Des Moines Register will be posting real-time results here

Even as late polls showed Bernie Sanders holding a slight edge over Hillary Clinton, Sanders told a reporter in Des Moines on Tuesday that he was only "cautiously optimistic" about his chances of snatching victory from his opponent who led the race at the outset by more than 50 points among likely Democratic voters. Such a win would still come as a shock to the political establishment even as Sanders and his supporters have broken nearly every expectation set forth this campaign season.

Though Sanders and his top staff have downplayed the idea of a do-or-die Iowa win, Josh Vorhees at Slate is among those saying that whether his supporters like it or not, Iowa remains a must-win for the U.S. senator from Vermont.

"Sanders’ path to the nomination has always been an incredibly narrow one," Voorhees explained. "He needs to win Iowa and New Hampshire, and then hope the momentum that comes from those early victories will convince more moderate—and diverse—Democrats to join the cause. It’s a long shot, yes, but it begins in Iowa."

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim published a piece on Monday explaining why a victory in Iowa "could break the election wide open" for Sanders. With one eye looking at President Obama's historic Iowa upset in 2008 and the other looking towards upcoming primaries in New Hampshire and then South Carolina, Grim explains that a Sanders win on Monday night could drastically change the dynamics of 2016:

For the American voter prior to 2008, the only thing harder than picturing a black man winning the White House might have been seeing a socialist occupying it. But if Sanders comes out on top in Iowa and follows it up with a win in New Hampshire, where he's well ahead, all of a sudden he becomes a viable candidate, and the firewall [Clinton currently enjoys in South Carolina and beyond] could be snuffed out.

"The reality is, if Mrs. Clinton loses Iowa and New Hampshire, that could create new and real problems for her here," said Jim Clyburn, a Democratic congressman and civil rights leader from South Carolina.

While many political observers and polling experts have said that turnout will be key in determining today's Democratic winner, both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have sought to manage expectations to their own advantage. And as attention focuses on what the voters of Iowa decide—as their respective Twitter feeds will surely exhibit—both campaigns will continue to use social media to frame the results in their own interests:

@BernieSanders @HillaryClinton

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