The Iowa Democratic Party has released partial results of its presidential caucus after a delay, showing Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders leading the opening contest in the party’s 2020 primary season.
The results followed 24 hours of chaos as technical issues marred the contest, forcing state officials to apologise and raising questions about Iowa’s traditional place at the top the presidential primary calendar.
It was too early to call a winner based on the initial results, but Massachusetts Sen Elizabeth Warren, former vice president Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen Amy Klobuchar were trailing in the tally of State Delegate Equivalents, according to data released for the first time by the state Democratic Party nearly 24 hours after voting concluded.
The results reflected 62% of precincts in the state.
Mr Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, becomes the first openly gay candidate to earn presidential primary delegates.
His early strength reflects his aggressive political pursuit of rural and small-town voters, including some Republicans, who prefer a more moderate approach to address the nation’s political problems.
“We don’t know all of the numbers, but we know this much: A campaign that started a year ago with four staff members, no name recognition, no money, just a big idea — a campaign that some said should have no business even making this attempt, has taken its place at the front of this race,” Mr Buttigieg declared, his voice filled with emotion, while campaigning in next-up New Hampshire.
While campaigns were eager to spin the results to their advantage, there was little immediate indication that the incomplete results erased the confusion and concern that loomed over the Iowa contest. It was unclear when the full results would be released.
During a private conference call with campaigns earlier in the day, state party chairman Troy Price declined to answer pointed questions about the specific timeline – even whether it would be a matter of days or weeks.
“We have been working day and night to make sure these results are accurate,” Mr Price said at a subsequent press conference.
The leading candidates pressed on in New Hampshire, which votes in just seven days, as billionaire Democrat Michael Bloomberg sensed opportunity, vowing to double his already massive advertising campaign and expand his sprawling staff focused on a series of delegate-rich states voting next month.
The party’s caucus crisis was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting the contest as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled field with no clear front-runner.
Instead, after a build-up that featured seven rounds of debates, nearly one billion US dollars spent nationwide and a year of political jockeying, caucus day ended with no winner, no official results and many fresh questions about whether Iowa can retain its coveted “first” status.
Iowa marked the first contest in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several US territories, ending at the party’s national convention in mid-July.
The other early leader, Mr Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has spent decades fighting to fundamentally change the nation’s politics and economy. He has attracted significant support from young voters in particular.
Before he left Iowa late on Monday, the Sanders’ campaign told supporters that its internal monitoring showed him in the lead with nearly half the vote in.
Mr Sanders himself said: “Today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.”
Campaigning in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Sen Warren also said she was “feeling good” about her performance in Iowa but questioned the state party’s plans to release partial results.
“I just don’t understand what that means, at least half of the data. I think they ought to get it together and release all the data,” she said.
Mr Biden also said he was “feeling good” and predicted the results would be close.
The party told campaigns on Tuesday that the problem was a result of a “coding issue in the reporting system” that it said had since been fixed.
It said it had verified the accuracy of the collected data and said the problem was not a result of “a hack or an intrusion”.