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How 2020 Democrats are responding to Iowa caucus chaos

Confusion has reigned over the results of Monday’s Democratic caucuses in Iowa. The candidates, meanwhile, are trying to find solid ground in the next primary contest, in New Hampshire. William Brangham reports and talks to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa about what will happen now in Iowa, the future of the party's caucuses and how the candidates are adapting their campaign strategies.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    After the confusion following Iowa's Democratic presidential caucuses this past Monday, the candidates running for president are trying to find solid ground in the Granite State of New Hampshire.

    William Brangham reports on the latest from Iowa and the final sprint to win the first primary.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    We might want the decisions of the Iowa caucus before the November election.

  • William Brangham:

    In Manchester, New Hampshire, today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told reporters that, despite Iowa's delays, he's certain he was the winner.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    What I want to do today, three days late, is to thank the people of Iowa for the very strong victory they gave us at the Iowa caucuses on Monday night.

  • William Brangham:

    Sanders expressed frustration with the entire process in Iowa, and stressed that, regardless of who got more of Iowa's delegates, he got more actual voters.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Mr. Buttigieg and I will end up with the same amount of delegates, 11 now each, probably a little bit more. That's what will happen. It ain't going to change. And what certainly is not going to change is the fact that, in terms of the popular vote, we won a decisive victory.

  • William Brangham:

    South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is trying to ride the momentum from his strong showing in Iowa.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    I have seen it in your faces from those first visits when I came through.

  • William Brangham:

    At a campaign event in Merrimack, New Hampshire, today, he reminded supporters just how far his campaign has come.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    All the way down to these last few days that are bringing us to decision time and the importance of making sure that we are ready to win and making sure that we are ready the leave once we do.

  • William Brangham:

    Buttigieg may have the slight edge in delegates, but Sanders is the clear winner when it comes to raising money. The Sanders campaign announced today that it pulled in a whopping $25 million last month.

    That's more than any other candidate raised in any full quarter in 2019. The Buttigieg team reported it raised near $3 million since the day after the Iowa caucus, which included over 20,000 new donors to the campaign.

    Other candidates, like former Vice President Joe Biden, are acknowledging their struggles.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We took a gut punch in Iowa.

  • William Brangham:

    While on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Biden addressed his weak performance in Iowa.

    But Biden also didn't hesitate to point out the weaknesses of his opponents, slamming Sanders for self-identifying as a Democratic socialist.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Every Democrat in America up and down the ballot will have to carry the label Senator Sanders has chose for himself.

  • William Brangham:

    Biden also hit Buttigieg on his lack of experience.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    For this party to nominate someone who's never held an office higher than mayor of a town of 100,000 people in Indiana.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    I do believe it's a risk.

  • William Brangham:

    And at a Wednesday CNN town hall in New Hampshire, billionaire activist Tom Steyer pointed out Buttigieg's struggle to win over black voters.

  • Tom Steyer:

    I can put together the kind of diverse coalition that we need to have to beat Trump. And that's something, if you look at the people who are running for president, there are people who are struggling to do that, like Pete Buttigieg.

  • William Brangham:

    Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, also coming off a disappointing showing in Iowa, stressed party unity.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    And the only way we're going to turn that around, the only way we're going the make this government work for us starts right here in the Democratic primaries.

  • William Brangham:

    Warren will join six other Democratic contenders on a New Hampshire debate stage tomorrow night, the candidates' next chance to boost their position before the state's primary next Tuesday.

    Here to break down what this Iowa news means for the Democratic Party and the 2020 candidates is Robert Costa. He's the moderator of "Washington Week" here on PBS and a national reporter for The Washington Post. He joins us from The Post newsroom.

    Bob, thanks for being here.

    After this debacle in Iowa — and I think that is the technical term for it — DNC Chair Tom Perez says he wants Iowa Democrats to do a recanvass.

    Can you explain, what does that actually mean, and how much does it matter?

  • Robert Costa:

    A recanvass is not a recount. A recount is a counting of individual votes.

    What the chairman of the Democratic Party wants to do, following all the frustration about the Iowa result, is go back and look at the math, look at the data that was reported from different precincts, and retabulate those forms, rather than going to count each individual vote.

  • William Brangham:

    So, I guess we will wait the see what the results of that are.

    But, certainly, what does this do for Democratic Party unity? I mean, this is — we know this is not all the DNC's fault, what happened in Iowa, but this has got to be disruptive for the internal mechanism of the party.

  • Robert Costa:

    There is a real push right now in the Democratic Party, based on my conversations with many campaigns, to move more toward a primary-only system in the future, that there are so many problems when it comes to caucuses and how it's done, how it's arranged, how results are collected, that, in the future, you could see the Democratic Party not only moving away from Iowa, a state that's 90 percent white, and New Hampshire, a small, tiny state in New England, moving more toward diverse states to begin the primary nominating contest, but also away totally from caucuses.

    And that's a trend that's beginning only to build this week.

  • William Brangham:

    So, shifting now to the candidates, normally, after the first big primary or caucus, there's this push to seize the mantle of being the front-runner.

    We now have two candidates who are trying to claim that role of the victor out of Iowa. How do you see that shaking out?

  • Robert Costa:

    You see, in Senator Sanders, a campaign that has been a movement campaign going back to his own run in 2016.

    And he's trying consolidate the left wing of the Democratic Party, looking ahead not only to New Hampshire, which he won in 2016, but ahead to Super Tuesday in early March.

    And Mayor Buttigieg sees Vice President Biden's limited performance in Iowa and sees a lane ahead for himself to try to consolidate that centrist wing of the Democratic Party. It's not going to be easy. There's a lot of competition, not only V.P. Biden, but Senator Klobuchar and others.

    And, of course, you cannot forget former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sitting there ready for Super Tuesday, spending millions on advertising.

  • William Brangham:

    You mentioned the limited performance of former Vice President Joe Biden.

    This Iowa result has got to seem like a pretty bad result for him. I mean, he referred to it as a gut punch himself.

  • Robert Costa:

    He did refer to it as a gut punch.

    But when you talk to his top campaign advisers and his allies — I was just on the phone with Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio. He said, for Vice President Biden, it's always been about South Carolina, because he's making a case to the entire Democratic Party nationally that he's the candidate who can win not just white voters in Iowa and older voters in New Hampshire, who are mostly white as well, but win over black voters, win over the entire Obama coalition, serving as vice president for President Obama.

    He's making the case that, in the long term, he's the only candidate who can do so. But his campaign acknowledges publicly and more privately that he needs a big showing in South Carolina in a few weeks in late February.

  • William Brangham:

    And what about Elizabeth Warren? One of my colleagues mentioned earlier today that she didn't do badly enough to get press and she didn't do well enough to get press.

    What happens to her in this mix?

  • Robert Costa:

    She's in a difficult political position, because Senator Sanders continues to rise, raise a ton of money, and she's competitive, but she's not able to eat into his core support on the left of the Democratic Party at this point.

    But she does have some money, and she has a strong reputation among grassroots Democrats, who see her as a version of Senator Sanders, a left-wing ideology, but someone who can maybe win over more voters in the center.

    So, she's pulling from different parts of the Democratic Party. You cannot count her out at this point. New Hampshire will be a test. It's a neighboring state to Massachusetts, as well as being a neighboring state to Senator Sanders and his home state of Vermont.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Bob Costa of The Washington Post and "Washington Week," thank you so much.

  • Robert Costa:

    Thank you.

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