DES MOINES, IA — After a delay that frustrated candidates, supporters and democracy itself, Pete Buttigieg was announced Tuesday as the winner — so far — of the Iowa Caucuses, followed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in results that give some candidates more steam and signaled to others they may want to rethink their campaigns.
The delayed results had candidates headed to New Hampshire for that state’s primary Feb. 11 uncertain of the finish in Iowa, the nation’s first 2020 nominating contest. And Tuesday’s finishing order could change once final tallies are released. Only 62 percent of the vote had been counted by late Tuesday afternoon, with the results of about 665 precincts still outstanding.
Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren were followed by Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang.
Iowa Democratic Party officials plan follow-up meetings with every county chairperson in the state and will request voter rolls, presidential preference cards filled out by caucusgoers, math worksheets to determine candidate delegate counts and new Democratic voter registration data.
“Our ability to carry out a fair and transparent process will be judged by our actions over the course of the next few hours,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said in an email to county chairs obtained by news station KCCI.
The problem in Iowa was a combination of human error and a technology failure. The state party dispatched staff to drive across Iowa Tuesday to collect the paper documentation on the votes, and said it was using photographs of results and counting presidential preference cards to make sure the results match and “ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report.”
“This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion,” the party said in a statement late Monday. “The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.”
Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren all gave stirring victory speeches Monday before leaving Iowa for New Hampshire.
Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota, told supporters Monday night that her campaign “punched above its weight” with a better-than-expected finish.
Biden, the national frontrunner at this stage in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, never considered Iowa part of his firewall of support and spent less time in the state than did other candidates.
The challenge for him now is to hold on to his national lead and convince other early voting states that his campaign offers Democrats their best chance of beating President Donald Trump in November.
The delays in reporting bring new questions about whether Iowa should keep its elite first-in-the-nation status. The reality, though, is that Iowa has had limited impact on determining either party’s eventual presidential nominee and even less say on who ultimately becomes president.
Consider the Iowa Caucuses the early round of a beauty pageant, when contestants are eliminated but the winner is yet to be crowned.
Voters send a list of finalists to other early primary and caucus states leading up to Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states and Democrats living abroad will have a much larger say in choosing the party’s likely nominee.
The quirky, early nominating contest that is the Iowa Caucuses started Monday promptly at 7 p.m. local time in school gymnasiums, church basements and other meeting spots across the snowy landscape.
Going into the caucuses, Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg all led polls at some point, and Klobuchar’s campaign also showed traction.
True to form, many Iowa voters went into their caucuses unsure who they would support, and candidates made a final push over the weekend to win them over. The political game of musical chairs the Iowa Democratic Party uses to sort out the strongest candidates encourages mind-changing.
“You’re going to go into a room and you know you might have to change your mind,” Ann Selzer, who directs the Iowa Poll, told The New York Times. “It encourages Democrats to keep an open mind, and have more than one candidate that they might support. Perhaps with the large field this time, it’s made the decision-making process even slower.”
Adding to the pre-caucus anxiety was a rule change that gave multiple candidates the opportunity to claim victory. For the first time, three sets of numbers were reported to the Democratic National Committee:
For all of their Norman Rockwellian charm, the caucuses lack the in-and-out efficiency of a polling booth and require Iowans to commit up to several hours on a winter night.
Another quadrennial criticism of the Iowa Caucuses is that they give outsized influence to a rural, overwhelmingly white and graying state that awards only 41 of the 1,990 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination.
Iowa voters have a strong record of picking their party’s nominees, but have picked the president only three times since the caucuses came to national prominence in 1972.
Of the 15 candidates who won contested Iowa Caucuses since then, only three — Democrat Jimmy Carter (technically, he finished second to “uncommitted” in 1976), Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama — have won the presidency.
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