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Early winners and losers from the Iowa caucuses

The Iowa Democratic Party sought on Tuesday to begin clearing up the debacle that enveloped its caucuses the previous night.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, the party finally released partial results. The returns covered 62 percent of the precincts in the state and much could yet change, especially at the top of the field where less than 2 points separates front-runners Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Still, Tuesday’s partial results are vital in shaping perceptions with the second contest, the New Hampshire primary, just one week away — and no timeline was given for the release of the full results in Iowa.
Based on the current state of play, who are the winners and losers from the Hawkeye State?
WINNERS
Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D)
Iowa often delivers a surprise and this year Buttigieg provided it.
In the partial results released Tuesday, the former South Bend, Ind., mayor won 26.9 percent of the state delegates.
Sanders, who has 25.1 percent, could yet overtake Buttigieg, of course. But the mere fact that the 38-year-old former mayor is leading is startling enough. He had little national profile at the start of his campaign and was considered a long shot against more high-profile names.
Before the caucuses took place, there had been skepticism about whether the large, predominantly young crowds that Buttigieg was drawing to his events would actually show up to caucus.
They did.
Irrespective of whether Buttigieg holds on for the win in Iowa or ends up second, he also benefits from former Vice President Joe Biden’s poor showing.
Biden’s problems mean Buttigieg could be on his way to becoming the main centrist alternative to Sanders.
That has always been his one path to becoming a serious contender for the nomination.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Sanders won the most votes in Iowa based on the early returns — a point his senior adviser Jeff Weaver emphasized immediately in a statement. And Sanders could yet win the caucuses outright.
More to the point, he was the clear choice of Iowa’s progressives, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) some distance behind in third.
Whatever the final outcome in Iowa, Sanders has proved he can translate grassroots enthusiasm into actual votes, withstanding the charge from other camps that he is too extreme in his policy positions.
The Vermont senator also enjoys a commanding polling lead in New Hampshire. In the RealClearPolitics polling average on Tuesday, he was polling at about twice Buttigieg’s level.
Even if Buttigieg gets a boost from his Iowa surprise, there could be a silver lining for Sanders in New Hampshire.
If Buttigieg and Biden split the centrist vote and the left continues to coalesce behind the Vermont senator, Sanders will be in a formidable position.
Either way, Sanders goes into New Hampshire with a strong wind at his back.
President Trump
The problems with the Democratic caucuses gave the president a chance to gloat — and he was not going to pass up the opportunity.
“The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster,” the president tweeted early on Tuesday morning. “Nothing works, just like they ran the Country.”
Trump himself won the Republican caucuses easily, facing only token opposition. He was set to deliver his State of the Union address, amid all the usual pomp and circumstance, on Tuesday evening. His acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial a day later is a foregone conclusion.
The president had made a significant effort to make sure Democrats would not have the spotlight to themselves in Iowa. He held a rally in Des Moines last Thursday, and a number of high-profile surrogates fanned out to caucus locations on Monday.
But the Democrats handed Trump a public relations gift with the results debacle.
Trump also recorded his highest job approval rating in a Gallup poll released Tuesday morning. His job approval in the new poll was 49 percent.
New Hampshire
The Granite State has always had a fraught relationship, politically speaking, with Iowa.
The two states are rivalrous: New Hampshire politicos note, correctly, that they host the first-in-the-nation primary and look askance at Iowa’s caucus process.
Their Iowan equivalents defend the idiosyncrasies of the caucuses and note how their state has sometimes shifted big races at a stroke — the most famous recent example being then-Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) 2008 victory here.
Iowa’s problems this year, though, seriously endanger the future of the caucuses. No tears will be shed in Concord or Manchester.