Hillary Clinton narrowly won the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, outpacing a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders to claim the first victory in the 2016 race for president.
The former secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady edged past the Vermont senator in a race the Iowa Democratic Party called the closest in its caucus history.
The Iowa Democratic Party said Tuesday that it would not do any recount of the close results. Sanders spokesman Ted Devine said his campaign does not have "any plan or intention" to challenge the results, citing Sanders comments from Monday that the race appears to have ended in "a virtual tie."
Even a narrow victory for Clinton over an avowed socialist could complicate her quest for the nomination. But Clinton has deep ties throughout the party's establishment and a strong following among a more diverse electorate that will play a larger role in primary contests beyond New Hampshire, where Sanders is favored.
Clinton, who entered the race as the heavily favored front-runner, was hoping to banish the possibility of dual losses in Iowa and in New Hampshire. Two straight defeats could set off alarms within the party and throw into question her ability to defeat a Republican.
Sanders, for his part, was hoping to replicate President Barack Obama's pathway to the presidency by using a victory in Iowa to catapult his passion and ideals of "democratic socialism" deep into the primaries. He raised $20 million during January and hoped to turn an Iowa win into a fundraising bonanza.
Clinton, in New Hampshire Tuesday campaigning ahead of the state's Feb. 9 primary, said she was "so proud I am coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa" adding, "I've won and I've lost there and it's a lot better to win."
Clinton's victory in Iowa means she will collect 23 delegates and Sen. Bernie Sanders will win 21. With her advantage in superdelegates — the party officials who can support the candidate of their choice — Clinton now has a total of 385 delegates. Sanders has 29.
It takes 2,382 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president.
Portia Boulger, a 63-year-old who traveled to Iowa from Chillicothe, Ohio to support Sanders, declared a razor-thin outcome as good as a victory for Sanders.
"The political revolution is here and it's started in Iowa," she declared. "Win, lose or draw we have won."
Caucus-goers were choosing between Clinton's pledge to use her wealth of experience in government to bring about steady progress on democratic ideals and Sanders' call for radical change in a system rigged against ordinary Americans.
"Hillary goes out and works with what we have to work with. She works across the aisle and gets things accomplished," said 54-year-old John Grause, a precinct captain for Clinton in Nevada, Iowa.
"It's going to be Bernie. Hillary is history. He hasn't been bought," countered 55-year-old Su Podraza-Nagle, 55, who was caucusing for Sanders in the same town.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, unable to turn it into a three-way race, ended his quest for the nomination.
The Associated Press