Buttigieg, Sanders in Virtual Tie as Iowa Slowly Reports Vote
Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend and 2020 presidential candidate, center, arrives at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 2020. (Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg)

Buttigieg, Sanders in Virtual Tie as Iowa Slowly Reports Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were in a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses early Thursday as the state’s Democratic Party continued to struggle with releasing long-delayed results.

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor had 26.2% of state delegate equivalents, barely besting the Vermont senator’s 26.1%, with 97% of more than 1,700 precincts reporting results.

In third place was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, with 18.2%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden, with 15.8%. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was in fifth, with 12.2%.

Iowa Democrats plan to continue releasing results as they sort through the data.

A win in Iowa wouldn’t put Buttigieg that far ahead in the race for the Democratic nomination, as only 41 pledged delegates are at stake. But Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status gives it a bigger role in the process than the numbers suggest. Momentum is key going into later contests and a win would give a boost to any candidate, especially one as little known nationally as Buttigieg.

With a delay in reporting results due to problems with an app designed for the caucus and more complex rules, it remains to be seen if the Iowa winner will receive a traditional bump in polls, especially with attention splintered this week by the State of the Union address and President Donald Trump’s acquittal by the Senate of impeachment charges on Wednesday afternoon.

An Iowa win for Buttigieg would be a remarkable moment in U.S. politics, as he is the first openly gay presidential candidate, and, at 38, running in the first race in which he is old enough under the Constitution to contest the presidency.

Addressing supporters in New Hampshire, the state with the next presidential contest, Buttigieg, 38, leaned into his relative youth. He said “Every time that we have earned that Oval Office it has been with a candidate that’s focused on the future, new in politics, offering a different vision.”

On Monday night, the caucuses that were meant to give shape to the Democratic presidential field devolved into a political embarrassment for the party and left candidates and voters hanging with no results and no springboard into the next round of contests, including New Hampshire’s primary on Feb. 11.

The chaos in Iowa began when an attempt to modernize the arcane caucus system and make it more transparent melted down with the introduction of new technology and more complex rules. The Iowa Democratic Party said it was unable to release results from Monday’s caucuses after discovering “inconsistencies” in reporting from some precincts.

“We determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” Price, the state chairman, said in the statement. “While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed.”

The clean-up efforts are unlikely to quiet critics. Party officials and lawmakers were already questioning its outsize role in picking the president. The Iowa contest is the first in a long cycle of caucuses and primaries that stretches until June -- awarding just 1% of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

The disruption in the reporting is also likely to accelerate calls for an end to caucuses. Only three other states -- Nevada, Wyoming and Kansas -- still use the caucus system in the nomination race as the national party has tried to shift states toward using primaries.

The Iowa Democratic Party said there was no evidence of hacking in the stalled reporting of results, but rather human error and other inconsistencies that forced the party to resort to hand-counting the votes.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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