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With More Results In, Buttigieg And Sanders Still Lead In Iowa — Biden Still Fourth

UPDATE (Feb. 5, 2020, 2:30 p.m.): At around 2 p.m. Eastern, the Iowa Democratic Party released more results from about 70 precincts, taking us from 71 percent precincts reporting to 75 percent. However, it did not significantly change any candidates’ numbers. Sanders still leads in initial and final vote preference, but Buttigieg leads in state delegate equivalents.

After a frustrating Monday night when we got almost no results from the Iowa caucuses, we now have partial results. At around 5 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, the Iowa Democratic Party released the results from 62 percent of Iowa’s caucus sites; a few more results trickled in later in the evening. As of Wednesday morning, with about 71 percent of precincts reporting at least some results, here’s where the three measures of the vote — initial preference, final preference and state delegate equivalents — stood.

Preliminary results from the Iowa caucuses

First alignment, final alignment and state delegate equivalents (SDEs) in the Iowa Democratic caucuses with about 71 percent of precincts reporting

Buttigieg 21% 25% 27%
Sanders 24 26 25
Warren 19 21 18
Biden 15 13 15
Klobuchar 13 13 13
Yang 5 1 1
Steyer 2 0 0
Uncommitted 1 1 0
Gabbard 0 0 0
Bennet 0 0 0
Patrick 0 0 0
Bloomberg 0 0 0

Source: Iowa Democratic Party

So far, Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading in the two counts of the popular vote, the first and final alignments. Twenty-four percent of caucusgoers supported him on the initial ballot, 3 points higher than the runner-up, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In the final realignment vote — after supporters of candidates who didn’t meet the viability threshold (usually 15 percent of the vote at a caucus site) are allowed to switch to another candidate — Sanders had 26 percent and only a 1-point lead on Buttigieg. But Buttigieg is currently pulling more state delegate equivalents (27 percent of them), which is what determines the number of Democratic National Convention delegates a candidate receives out of Iowa. That split results from Buttigieg doing well in rural counties, which have a lot of delegates relative to their population, while Sanders ran up big margins in urban areas and college towns, which punch a bit below their weight in terms of delegates.

Of course, with about 29 percent of precincts yet to report, these are not the final numbers. They’re probably in the right ballpark, though. The precincts that are reporting come from all 99 of Iowa’s counties, and they should be pretty representative of this homogenous state. For example, The New York Times’s (in)famous “needle” — essentially a model that uses early election returns to estimate the results in outstanding precincts and thus predict a final outcome — expects Sanders to hold onto his popular-vote leads and Buttigieg to stay ahead in the delegate count.

If so, it seems like clear good news for the Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns, although the former remains significantly more likely to win the Democratic nomination. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is currently in third by all three measures, got more of a neutral result. Former Vice President Joe Biden turned in a weaker-than-expected performance, however. So far, he has gotten just 13 percent of the post-realignment vote — toward the lower end of his likely range according to our Iowa primary forecast and just half of the 26 percent our model had him winning on average. For comparison, Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren are all currently overshooting their average vote share per the FiveThirtyEight forecast. (Quick programming note: Our forecast is still frozen — that is, we’re not updating it with new data — until we get more final results from Iowa.)

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Outside of those top four, only Sen. Amy Klobuchar and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang received a significant share of votes or state delegate equivalents. Klobuchar currently has 13 percent of the post-realignment vote and 13 percent of state delegate equivalents. Yang, who had 5 percent in initial preferences, ended up with only 1 percent in the final realignment. But he still currently has 1 percent of state delegate equivalents.

The numbers in Iowa might shift a little when all precincts are finally reporting, but the overall picture is unlikely to change. Sanders and Buttigieg had good nights. Warren did OK. And Biden will almost certainly wind up with a disappointing percentage. That probably means the next few weeks of the primary will be all about how well Biden can recover.

Make sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s Democratic primary forecast in full (once it’s unfrozen, of course); in the meantime, you can also see all the 2020 primary polls we’ve collected, including national polls, New Hampshire polls, Nevada polls and South Carolina polls.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.