(JTA) — Hillary Clinton’s campaign claimed victory in the tightly contested Democratic Iowa caucus against Jewish candidate Bernie Sanders, with Sanders telling supporters it was a “virtual tie.”
Clinton finished with 49.9 percent of the Iowa precincts and Sanders 49.6 percent early Tuesday morning. Sanders’ campaign had not conceded as of the morning.
Sanders told reporters early Tuesday morning on an airplane heading for Manchester, New Hampshire, that his campaign is now “in this for the long haul,” the Washington Post reported.
He also called the Iowa results “a wonderful start off to the national campaign” and said “we’re in this to the convention, and this is a campaign that we can win.”
Following the caucus, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who received less than 1 percent of precincts, suspended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nod.
The Associated Press declined to call the race with one precinct not reporting.
“I stand here tonight breathing a big sigh of relief. Thank you, Iowa,” Clinton said in a speech to supporters.
Sanders is leading in polling ahead of the Feb. 9 primary vote in New Hampshire. With a victory there, he could claim momentum for a campaign that was once perceived as hopeless against Clinton, the front-runner in national polls.
Sanders has run mostly to the left of Clinton, focusing on economic issues and attacking her ties to Wall Street. Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator, has focused on her experience, including in foreign policy, where she has played up her role in shaping last year’s Iran nuclear deal and her close relations with Israel’s leadership.
Also Monday night, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won the Iowa Republican caucus in an upset with 28 percent of the precincts, followed by real estate magnate Donald Trump at 24 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 23. Polls had showed Trump with the lead. Rubio for a time had languished in the polls along with other establishment candidates.
Cruz and Rubio have worked hard to cultivate the pro-Israel wing of the party. Both candidates are favorites of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the Las Vegas-based billionaire couple who are leading power brokers in the Republican Party and the pro-Israel community.