DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg is leading the Iowa caucuses with 62 percent of 99 counties reporting, the Iowa Democratic Party said at a briefing Tuesday afternoon, nearly an entire day after a smartphone app malfunction delayed the reporting of results.
Buttigieg earned 26.9 percent of the votes counted so far, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders with 25.1 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has earned 18.3 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden is in fourth place with 15.6 percent.
Candidates are vying for 41 possible delegates, and are only eligible to receive a portion of that total if they hit over 15 percent viability in each precinct.
While Buttigieg has net 26.9% of state delegates so far, Sanders still has the edge in the state’s popular vote. Sanders lost steam in a second realignment, which gave Buttigieg the upper hand in terms of state delegate equivalents. The 38 percent still unreported could shift these totals.
The preliminary numbers are a boost for Buttigieg, who needed a strong showing in Iowa to compete beyond the early states. Campaigning in New Hampshire as the results were finally made public, Buttigieg called the results an “astonishing victory.”
A Buttigieg campaign source told Yahoo News that the early returns reinforced what “they already knew” — that the Obama/Trump flip counties would edge toward the former mayor.
Buttigieg’s success also came at a cost for Biden, another centrist frontrunner in the Democratic field.
While Biden’s campaign has been tempering expectations for Iowa, a fourth place showing will likely be weaponized against them. In fact, Biden barely edged out Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., by three percent in the final alignment.
In a news conference unlikely to quell the fervor over the botched reporting of the caucus results, Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price said the delay was “unacceptable,” and explained that the party had taken steps to “ensure the accuracy” of the results.
Price blamed the holdup on a “coding error” with the smartphone app adopted this year, but did not answer questions about when 100 percent of the results would be completed.
Anxieties about what this means going forward remain and were summed up by the first question at the IDP press conference: “How can anyone trust you now?”
During a call with campaign staff earlier in the day, the IDP was unable to commit to a timeline for the rest of the result rollout. Frustrations were high as unnamed staffers questioned how it would be advantageous to release the results piecemeal, as some campaigns might run away with the data and market it as representative for the whole state. IDP president Troy Price continuously reminded frantic staffers that data typically released in stages in any other regular caucuses.
Though that explanation has not been enough to quell concern that an app developed for reporting results caused tabulation errors. Confusion around the app’s funding and function, coupled with projected unenthusiastic turnout, has rendered the Iowa caucuses a mess for candidates, who are scrambling to move on to the New Hampshire contest.
On Tuesday, state party staffers knocked on doors of rural precinct managers to collect their totals manually, a signal that the first wash of data may be coming from more suburban and urban parts of the state — potentially skewing where delegates might land in the long run.
Without formal results to go on Monday night, candidates were left to spin the results in a positive light. Klobuchar exclaimed that her campaign “punched above their weight,” while former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg all but declared victory in the state.
“Because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious,” Buttigieg told his supporters late Monday.
The Sanders campaign said their data showed the senator from Vermont was leading in the state, with Buttigieg in second, Sen. Elizabeth Warren in third and Biden in fourth.
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