The "virtual tie" in Iowa between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Monday evening is being hailed as a symbolic victory for the Sanders campaign, bolstering the fight for "political revolution," which the candidate vows will continue all the way to the Democratic National Convention.
With 99.94 percent of precincts reporting early Tuesday, the Des Moines Register showed Clinton leading with 49.86 percent versus Sanders' 49.57 percent.
Given the razor-thin margin and Iowa's dubious practice of using a coin-toss to determine delegate assignments in the event of a tie, the Sanders campaign has asked the state Democratic Party to release a raw popular vote count. In Iowa, unlike in other primary contests, delegates are assigned on a precinct-by-precinct basis.
"Whether we lose by a fraction of a point or we win or whatever, we're very proud of the campaign that we [ran] and I think the significance is, for folks who did not think Bernie Sanders could win, that we could compete against Hillary Clinton, I hope that that thought is now gone," Sanders told CNN shortly after his plane touched down in New Hampshire Tuesday morning.
Speaking from the back of a pick-up truck before dawn on Tuesday during an impromptu rally, Sanders announced: "We just got in from Iowa where we astounded the world. And now in New Hampshire we're going to astound the world again."
There appears to be a widespread consensus—including among centrist and right-wing voices—that Sanders' near-win in Iowa signifies a major blow to establishment politics, and a sign of what's to come as the primary contest heats up in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
"Imagine telling Bill Clinton in 1992 that 25 years later his wife would be neck and neck with an 'independent socialist' in the Democratic primary. This wasn't supposed to be possible."
"You can't deny that something is happening here," declared MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, commenting on the enthusiasm of the New Hampshire crowd. Sanders has consistently held the lead in that state and is currently projected to beat Clinton 57 to 34 percent.
Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox and former Washington Post columnist, went so far as to pronounce Sanders' tie "the biggest story of the Iowa caucuses."
Describing the results as a "genuinely remarkable political achievement," Klein continues: "Imagine telling Bill Clinton in 1992 that 25 years later his wife would be neck and neck with an 'independent socialist' in the Democratic primary. This wasn't supposed to be possible."
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Republican candidates, too, acknowledged that Sanders is a viable contender in the White House race.
After securing a third-place finish on Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) told supporters: "We will defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or whoever they nominate." Similarly, Donald Trump declared that he will "go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up there," after he finished second to Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas).
Much of Sanders' success has been attributed to his strong support among young voters. According to CNN's entrance poll, Sanders beat Clinton among Iowa voters age 18 to 29 by 70 points.
"Sanders decisively won with Iowa’s future Monday night," declared New York Magazine's Eric Levitz. "As far as the present is concerned, it’s difficult to say. It appears Clinton will edge Sanders by some nominal fraction of delegates. Considering the structural disadvantages Sanders faced — the concentration of his support among college students in a few select counties — it’s entirely possible the Vermont senator actually turned out more supporters than Clinton did."
Indeed, as columnist Gary Younge argues, after Monday night's results, the Democratic Party can now likely expect a long race "stretching into next spring."
"Sanders rode his self-proclaimed radical ideals all the way to a virtual tie in Iowa."
For many political observers, the success of the Sanders campaign, particularly among next-generation voters, reveals a significant shift within the Democratic Party that will likely reveal itself over the course of the primary season, as well as in years to come.
Pointing to the "large contingent of progressives, with a perspective typically excluded from the traditional media"—who by-and-large are against war, big banks, and corporate-controlled politics, and in favor of Social Security, equal rights, and government regulations—Salon's David Dayen wrote on Tuesday: "If Sanders wasn’t the standard-bearer for [these ideals], it would have been someone else. Because we’re seeing an actual debate over not means but ends."
"Sanders rode his self-proclaimed radical ideals all the way to a virtual tie in Iowa," wrote the Guardian's Lucia Graves, marking "the first time in a century that a socialist has managed to build a movement with real mass appeal, not to mention an actual shot at the presidency. Whatever shape the Democratic Party takes in the coming years, it will owe something to that phenomenon."
Graves continues: "If Sanders had lost definitively in Iowa (as almost everyone once predicted) his campaign would effectively be over before New Hampshire voters hit the booths next week. Well he didn’t and it’s not—and Clinton’s staff had better get to shoring up that vaunted Southern firewall before South Carolinians feel the Bern, too."