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Long-delayed Iowa caucus results give Buttigieg narrow lead over Sanders

US Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) participate in the seventh Democratic presidential election debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020.
US Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) participate in the seventh Democratic presidential election debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. © Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

Pete Buttigieg narrowly finished first in Iowa's Democratic presidential caucuses, the state party's tally showed on Thursday after a long delay, reshaping the 2020 race and raising doubts about the future of one-time front-runner Joe Biden, who finished a disappointing fourth.

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The 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana edged out progressive US Senator Bernie Sanders by 26.2 percent to 26.1 percent of state-delegate equivalents – the data traditionally used to determine the winner – with 100 percent of precincts counted, the Iowa Democratic Party reported on its website.

However, news organisations including The New York Times and the Associated Press have not identified a victor.

“The Associated Press calls a race when there is a clear indication of a winner. Because of a tight margin between former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders and the irregularities in this year’s caucus process, it is not possible to determine a winner at this point," said Sally Buzbee, the AP’s senior vice president and executive editor.

According to the state party’s results, US Senator Elizabeth Warren finished third in Iowa with 18 percent, while former Vice President Joe Biden limped to a disappointing fourth with 15.8 percent. US Senator Amy Klobuchar finished fifth with 12.3 percent.

The results, which were marred by technical and organisational errors, have still reshaped the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination for November's election, and raised doubts about the future of Biden, the one-time front-runner.

Iowa Democrats had poured into 1,600 schools, community centers and other public locations on Monday night to make their choices among the 11 candidates in the Democratic race.

But the Democratic candidates had already departed Iowa and turned their attention to the next nominating contest in New Hampshire on February 11 before the first results were even released in two batches on Tuesday.

Officials blamed inconsistencies related to a new mobile app used for vote-counting for the unusual delay in Iowa, the state that traditionally kicks off a US presidential election campaign that culminates this year on November 3.

Official calls for recanvass

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called on Thursday for a recanvass of the caucus results after the technical glitch created uncertainty about the accuracy of the tally.

Perez said that would involve an examination of the results from each caucus site rather than a full recount.

He said any review was unlikely to change the composition of the state's 41 delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Iowa Democratic Party leader Troy Price suggested in a statement Thursday that he would only pursue a recanvass if one was requested by a campaign.

Sanders cites victory in first-step vote

Speaking on Thursday in New Hampshire, Sanders thanked Iowans for "the very strong victory they gave us" in Monday's caucuses, pointing to his lead among voters when they first selected candidates at their caucus sites – the first step in the multi-part selection process.

"In other words, some 6,000 more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else," Sanders said.

"From where I come from the person who gets the most votes wins," he said, arguing that too much emphasis was being put on delegate totals.

Asked later at a CNN event if he would request a recanvass, Sanders said: “We’ve got enough of Iowa. I think we should move on to New Hampshire.”

He added: "I suspect that at the end of the day, Mr. Buttigieg and I will have an equal number of delegates to the national convention.”

'Screwup'

Party officials initially attributed the delays to a technical problem with the new mobile app, but other concerns have since emerged, complicating efforts to release the final tallies.

The Iowa Democratic Party received an "unusually high volume of inbound calls" to its caucus hotline on Monday night from "callers who would hang up immediately after being connected, supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party, and Iowans looking to confirm details," a party official said.

The call volume was "highly irregular" compared with previous caucuses, the official said.

The New York Times has also reported that more than 100 precincts reported results that were inconsistent, had missing data or were not possible under the caucus rules, casting doubt on the count.

The Iowa Democratic Party declined to comment on inconsistencies.

Both parties have criticised Iowa's process.

"They can't count some simple votes and yet they want to take over your healthcare system," Trump said of Democrats during an address celebrating his acquittal on impeachment charges.

His own party, however, switched the declared Iowa winner two weeks after its own Iowa caucuses in 2012.

In Manchester, New Hampshire, Sanders called the caucus debacle a "screwup" that was unfair to all candidates.

After Iowa's reporting issues and delays, the Nevada Democratic Party, which hosts its caucus on February 22, is "scrapping both the app and ties to Shadow", the company that developed caucus-reporting apps for both Iowa and Nevada, party spokeswoman Molly Forgey said.

"Luckily for us, we had a series of backup plans in place," Forgey added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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