Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have emerged on top in partial caucus results released Tuesday afternoon in Iowa, while the U.S.’s former Vice President Joe Biden fell far behind.
As of 8 p.m. in Iowa, both candidates had won 10 delegates, though 26.9% of the partial vote went to Buttigieg and 25.1% to Sanders, with 62% of precincts reporting. The final results will determine which candidates the state’s 41 pledged votes will go to at the Democratic National Convention, where the party will anoint its nominee.
The results, which came in after a one-day delay that left the nation in confusion, was a particular blow to Biden’s campaign. In the partial results, the former vice president was able to claim only 15.6% of caucusgoers’ support and no pledged delegates.
Support for Biden was at over 20% in multiple polls published shortly before Monday’s caucuses, many of which had him as one of the top two Democratic candidates.
At a caucus in Ankeny, a town 20 minutes away from downtown Des Moines, 30 of the 193 participants chose to align with Biden as their first choice, just one vote above the 15% viability threshold.
Biden is pegging his hopes on South Carolina, where polls say he has solid footing thanks to his support among black voters, but his weak preliminary finish in Iowa is likely to hurt his fundraising. South Carolinians vote on Feb. 29.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who declared his run after doubts over Biden’s electability emerged, has decided to double-down on campaign spending amid Biden’s fall in Iowa, according to The New York Times.
For many voters, the priority in this year’s Democratic primaries is to select a candidate who stands the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November.
“One of the things that is unusual, or different, about the caucuses here in Iowa is how the Democratic candidates have a viability threshold in precinct caucuses, where you have to get 15% support to be considered viable,” said Timothy Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa.
If a campaign has less than 15% support at a given precinct, caucusgoers supporting that candidate can realign themselves with another, viable campaign.
“With that second-choice, you see results moving even more to that ‘who’s the most electable,'” Hagle said.
As the only two caucusgoers sitting in the Bloomberg lane at their precinct’s caucus, Dave Powell and his wife chose to move to the Buttigieg camp in the second round.
“We thought he [Bloomberg] was very intelligent and would be able to stand toe-to-toe with Trump, to be able to beat Trump,” Powell said. “Buttigieg is our second choice.”
“I’m not sure if other candidates would be able to. For me it’s not as much about the issues… I’m just trying to find the best candidate with the best platform that can actually beat Trump.”
Sam Wu, a local high school student, switched to the Sanders camp after the Andrew Yang campaign was declared unviable, having garnered less than 9% of the total vote in the first count.
The confusion set in later when the Iowa Democratic Party delayed announcing the results, citing “inconsistencies with the reports,” the cause for which was “not immediately clear, and required investigation, which took time.”
More than an hour into Tuesday the party said it would not report votes until later in the day, sparking worries over election security. The Iowa Democratic Party maintained that it had “every indication that our systems were secure and there was not a cybersecurity intrusion.”
Its investigation found the data reported via a special-purpose app was “sound,” it said in a statement, and the inconsistency problem arose because the system was reporting out only partial data due to a “coding issue.”
“The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately,” the statement says.
Trump seized the chance to take a stab at Democrats.
“When will the Democrats start blaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, instead of their own incompetence for the voting disaster that just happened in the Great State of Iowa?” he tweeted Tuesday morning.