More than 48 hours after the Iowa caucuses began, there is still no winner.
After a fresh round of results came in just before 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, former mayor Pete Buttigieg held on to a narrow lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in state delegate equivalents.
The partial results show Buttigieg with 26.5% of state delegate equivalents. Sanders had 25.6%, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 18.3%, former Vice President Joe Biden with 15.9% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 12.1%.
But the updated results also showed Sanders holding on to a lead in the popular vote for the second alignment, a lead he has held since Tuesday evening.
The Associated Press reported that results had been published from 92% of all precincts, but the number of state delegate equivalents still available to be won means they will not yet call a winner in the race.
The partial update late Wednesday was the latest round in a dribbling in of results since the Iowa Democratic Party on Tuesday announced only some results would be announced that day. And it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
Minutes after an update came in around 4:40 p.m. ET Wednesday, the Iowa Democratic Party tweeted that there was a small error, and updated results would be coming soon. The error in results briefly showed Buttigieg taking the lead in the popular vote of the final alignment. But within 15 minutes, updated results showed Sanders maintaining the lead in popular vote he has held since Tuesday.
In Des Moines’ 55th precinct caucus, which was held in the lobby of the office building home to the Des Moines Register, the results issued before the correction showed Deval Patrick earning the support of 191 people in the first alignment and 218 in the final alignment. Those numbers actually belonged to Sanders.
The numbers reported by the party also showed Tom Steyer earning support that actually belonged to Warren. And no support was tallied for Yang or “uncommitted,” though there were some supporters in the room.
After a massive meltdown in producing the results for Monday’s Iowa caucuses, state Democratic party officials were still unable to declare a winner that night. An initial set of results accounting for 62% of the state’s precincts was released Tuesday afternoon followed a few hours later by additional results.
The popular vote vs. state delegate equivalents
The Sanders campaign has made a point on several occasions to note that while Buttigieg has a lead in state delegate equivalents (or SDEs), the Vermont senator is leading in the final alignment popular vote.
“We want to thank the people of Iowa. We are gratified that in the partial data released so far it’s clear that in the first and second round more people voted for Bernie than any other candidate in the field,” Sanders senior advisor Jeff Weaver said in a statement Tuesday.
But how can that be?
Well, you remember 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but Republican Donald Trump won the Electoral College? Iowa SDEs are awarded in a similar Electoral College-style system based on prior Democratic votes in the area.
After the final alignment at a caucus precinct, the number of people in a candidate’s preference group, as well as the total number of people at the precinct, are entered into a formula that spits out the SDEs each candidate can be awarded from that precinct.
Those state delegate equivalents are used to allocate how many delegates to the Democratic National Convention each candidate earned and to determine who won the caucuses.
So while Buttigieg has the current lead in SDEs, and Sanders currently has the popular vote lead in the final alignment numbers, both have so far earned the same number of delegate to the national convention (10), which is what will eventually determine who the Democratic nominee is.
As of noon ET Wednesday, there were still roughly 30% of the results yet to be reported — and 17 national delegates yet to be awarded — so no overall winner has been named.
– Annah Aschbrenner, USA TODAY
Biden: ‘We took a gut punch in Iowa’
Former Vice President Joe Biden made light of Iowa’s vote counting problems at an event in New Hampshire Wednesday, but conceded the results have been a blow to his campaign.
“At this rate, New Hampshire will be the first in the country to get to vote,” he quipped before adding, “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We took a gut punch in Iowa. The whole process took a gut punch. But this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.”
Biden, who is in fourth place with 71% of the precincts reporting, had previously tried to put a more positive spin on his performances in the caucuses.
“We had a good night last night in Iowa,” he said Tuesday. “We think we’re going to come out of there really doing well.”
“But be careful what you say, because it’s not done yet.”
–William Cummings, USA TODAY
Lots of frustration at results delays
Campaigns, party volunteers and regular Iowans have expressed confusion and frustration at the lack of clarity on what is often one of the most closely-watched nights in American presidential politics.
“I apologize deeply for this,” said Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price.
At issue: an app that caucus precinct chairs said failed to work properly, a back-up phone system for relaying results that was bogged down with callers and a new reporting structure that left Democrats working to verify three times the results as previous years.
It wasn’t the first time the Iowa caucuses have produced late results, but issues come after months of heightened criticism of the caucus process and calls for Iowa to lose its vaunted first-in-the-nation status.
“I’ve said this entire time that we’re going to have to evaluate after this primary is done … the debate thresholds, the order of the states, the caucus versus primary,” said former housing secretary Julián Castro, a surrogate for Warren’s campaign. “What happened (Monday night) made the argument for itself. Nobody can deny this is a broken way to do it. It was a total mess.”
The Iowa Democratic Party said the “underlying data collected” on the app used to report caucus results “was sound” but the system was only reporting out partial data. Democrats were manually recounting the results.
After the problems emerged in Iowa, frustrated candidates and their campaigns headed to New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Tuesday.
While speaking at an event in Laconia, New Hampshire, Buttigieg choked up after speaking about the preliminary results.
“It validates the idea that we can expand a coalition not only unified around who it is we’re against but around what it is that we’re for,” he said.
Sanders’ senior advisor Jeff Weaver praised the Vermont senator’s standing with the raw vote totals, not state delegate equivalents.
“We want to thank the people of Iowa. We are gratified that in the partial data released so far it’s clear that in the first and second round more people voted for Bernie than any other candidate in the field,” Weaver said in a statement.
– Caren Bohan, USA TODAY
Shadow, Inc. regrets its role in vote count delay
The tech firm behind the app that contributed to the reporting delays said on Twitter Tuesday, “We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results” and “the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers.”
The company also said it had “corrected the underlying technology issue.”
“We take these issues very seriously, and are committed to improving and evolving to support the Democratic Party’s goal of modernizing its election processes,” read one post from Shadow Inc.’s official account.
– William Cummings, USA TODAY
Contributing: Rebecca Morin of USA TODAY and Barbara Rodriguez of the Des Moines Register