DES MOINES, USA – The US Democratic Party was unable to provide results from the Iowa state caucuses Tuesday, February 4, despite spending millions of dollars, owing to what it called a technical glitch and President Donald Trump called incompetence.
Republicans led by Trump gloated over the setback, and candidates who normally rely on the Midwestern state's caucuses for momentum as the primary season unfolds were denied that bounce.
With newspapers unable to run headlines declaring a winner in the first in the nation vote, attention will soon turn elsewhere: to Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday, which comes under the cloud of his impeachment but all but certain acquittal in the Senate on Wednesday, February 5.
Filling the void, two candidates gave quasi victory speeches after voting concluded Monday night, February 3 – leftist Senator Bernie Sanders and young moderate Pete Buttigieg.
Iowa is a closely-watched test in the months-long process to determine who will face Trump in November.
In a statement read on US networks, Mandy McClure, communications director at the Iowa Democratic Party, said further checks were ordered after "inconsistencies" were found in the reporting of 3 sets of results.
"This is simply a reporting issue," she said, not "a hack or an intrusion."
US officials are under pressure to demonstrate the integrity of the voting system following 2016, when Russia was accused of interfering in the presidential election to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Former vice president Joe Biden's campaign counsel Dana Remus wrote to Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price blasting the "considerable flaws" encountered during the caucus.
"We believe that the campaigns deserve full explanations and relevant information regarding the methods of quality control you are employing, and an opportunity to respond, before any official results are released."
Trump called the Democrats incompetent.
"The Democrat caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the country," he wrote on Twitter.
Alluding to his own victory following Republican caucuses in the Midwestern farm state, Trump said "the only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is 'Trump.'"
Buttigieg was quick to claim victory among Democrats.
Figures released by the Sanders campaign 5 hours after the caucuses opened across Iowa showed Buttigieg in second spot, a strong showing for the candidate who was essentially unknown just one year ago.
"Iowa you have shocked the nation," the 38-year-old gay military reservist told cheering supporters in what sounded very much like a victory speech. "Because tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality."
Sanders, running as a democratic socialist, also took to the microphones to proclaim he had "a good feeling we're going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa."
"Tonight in this enormously consequential 2020 election, the first state in the country has voted, and today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump," said the 78-year-old.
A Bernie supporter from Des Moines, 35-year-old Lauren Campbell, expressed nervousness at the results' delay. "As a Bernie supporter in 2016, it's very easy for me to not trust the system right now.
But Sanders later took the bold step of releasing internal, unpublished results from nearly 40% of precincts, showing him with 28.62% of the state delegate equivalent, the figure used to determine who wins the Iowa caucuses.
Buttigieg was credited with 25.71%, followed by progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren on 18.42%, the data indicated.
Biden, the national frontrunner, was in fourth spot, at 15.08%, a disappointing showing for the candidate who has consistently claimed he is the person best positioned to take on and defeat Trump.
"I'm feeling good," Biden said before Sanders released the internals. "So it's on to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, well beyond. We're in this for the long haul."
New Hampshire votes second, on February 11, and tradition dictates that the top performers in Iowa board jets and race to The Granite State to capitalize on the momentum.
"The top finishers, probably Sanders and Buttigieg, could have used their showings to launch into New Hampshire for the primary next Tuesday, February 11. Instead, the story is the shocking incompetence of the Iowa Democratic Party," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told Agence France-Presse.
"And who will believe the numbers they eventually release? You can’t trust the campaigns either; they have every incentive to exaggerate," he added.
Unlike secret ballot voting, Iowa caucus-goers publicly declare their choice by standing together with other supporters of a candidate. Candidates who reach 15% support earn delegates for the nomination race while supporters of candidates who fall short can shift to others.
It appeared the delays may have been exacerbated by new rules instituted after the 2016 election that require caucuses to report 3 sets of numerical data throughout the process, rather than one set previously.
Held across nearly 1,700 sites, the Iowa vote offers a critical early look at the viability of the 11 Democrats still in the race – even though just 41 delegates are up for grabs, a fraction of the 1,991 needed to secure the nomination in July. – Rappler.com