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The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are running almost neck-and-neck in the Iowa Democratic caucus, according to partial results that follow a night of chaos and confusion.
With 41 delegates up for grabs, Buttigieg has a slight lead over Sanders, followed by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobouchar. Six other candidates trail far behind the front-runners.
But these results are from 62% of the precincts. It is unclear when the remaining 38% will be reported and there is still a chance for a few surprises.
Buttigieg told backers in New Hampshire that although the final results in Iowa are uncertain, what is known so far is an “astonishing victory.”
It took the Iowa Democratic Party nearly an entire day to report even a single vote because of what party officials say was a coding error and vote inconsistencies being reported on a mobile app specially designed for vote counting throughout the rural state.
Iowa Democratic party chairman Troy Price calls the confusion “unacceptable” and said he deeply apologizes.
Price said the party put off reporting any results all night and most of the day Tuesday out of an abundance of caution and to protect the integrity of the caucus.
He assured all caucus voters, the candidates and their supporters that the data is accurate because there is documentation of every choice at every precinct. Price promised a thorough and independent review of why the app failed.
Iowa’s caucus future
Monday’s disastrous caucuses bring questions whether the rural state can continue to be relied on to be for first state in the nation to officially choose presidential candidates. Iowa’s population is 91% white and some Democratic analysts say the state hardly reflects the national Democratic base, which includes minorities.
But the state’s three leading Republicans, Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst and Governor Kim Reynolds, defended Iowa’s role in picking presidential nominees for both Democrats and Republicans. They say they are confident “that every last vote will be counted and every last voice heard” in the opposition party’s contest.
With the full Iowa results unknown, the top Democrats immediately turned their attention to the rural northeastern state of New Hampshire, where a party presidential primary is set for Feb. 11. New Hampshire is next in a long string of state contests set to culminate in the party’s selection in July at its national convention of a nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump in November.
Several of the candidates flew from Iowa to New Hampshire early Tuesday to begin campaigning there without knowing the Iowa results.
Reaction from Trump
Trump, while winning the Iowa Republican caucus vote, gloated about the disarray in the Iowa Democratic vote counting, mocking it as “an unmitigated disaster.”
“The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump,'” he boasted.
He claimed that the vote-counting fiasco was “not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault. As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is. Important tradition!” to hold the first presidential nominating contest.
The Iowa Democratic outcome, even though it is delayed, is important for the Democratic challengers seeking to make Trump a one-term president, as they seek to gain momentum for the contests that follow.
But the absence of an outcome Monday night deprived all of them a chance to tout a victory or high finish on national television as evidence of their standing to take on Trump nine months from now.
“The history of the caucuses is that the candidate that does better than expected is often the one that gets attention and a real boost in votes in later states. But, of course, if we don’t know how they did, we don’t know who did better than expected and who did worse than expected,” said David Redlawsk, professor of political science at the University of Delaware. “So in that sense, New Hampshire is only eight days away, even if we get some results from Iowa, they may be eclipsed very quickly.”
The Iowa caucus voting was a night of American democracy in action, with voters spending the better part of a winter evening clustering in groups of supporters for Sanders, Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and others in hopes of achieving “viability” to qualify for delegates.
Voters showed their preferences by raising their hands or gathering in groups of like-minded supporters of the candidates.
The goal in the caucus was to reach what was called the “viability threshold” — the 15% of support needed to move on to the second round. Backers of any candidate who failed to meet that 15% were given a chance to throw their support behind their second choice at each caucus.