by Michael Mathes / with Chris Lefkow in Washington
MANCHESTER, United States (AFP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined Pete Buttigieg on Thursday in claiming victory in the chaotic Iowa caucuses as an exasperated party chairman ordered a review of the results of the first nominating contest.
Sanders, the leftist senator from Vermont, and Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, have been separated by a razor-thin margin in the results released so far from Monday’s caucuses.
Buttigieg declared himself the winner based on the number of delegates from the midwestern state who will be sent to the Democratic convention in July while Sanders staked his claim based on the popular vote.
Three days after the caucuses were held, however, the final results are yet to be released and some doubts have been raised about their accuracy.
Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez finally stepped in on Thursday, demanding a review of the results from the caucuses embarrassingly marred by technical problems.
“Enough is enough,” Perez said on Twitter. “In order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”
Perez said it would involve an examination of the results from each caucus site rather than a full recount.
With returns in from 97 percent of the 1,765 precincts in Iowa, Buttigieg was leading by 26.2 percent to Sanders’ 26.1 percent in the delegate totals.
Progressive Elizabeth Warren was next with 18.2 percent followed by former vice president Joe Biden with 15.8 percent and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar with 12.2 percent.
‘Much, much, much too complicated’
Sanders, speaking on Thursday in New Hampshire, the next state to hold a presidential nominating contest, pointed to his 6,000-vote edge.
“In other words, some 6,000 more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else,” he said.
“From where I come from the person who gets the most votes wins,” Sanders said, arguing that too much emphasis was being put on delegate totals.
At the end of the day, he said, the caucus system is “much, much, much too complicated” and it was a mistake for the state party to “rely on untested technology.”
Party officials have blamed the technical meltdown on a “coding error” with an app that was being used for the first time to report results.
President Donald Trump pounced on the debacle in the first-in-the-nation contest to decide which Democrat will face him in November.
“The Democrats, they can’t count some simple votes, and yet they want to take over your health care system,” Trump said during remarks at the White House celebrating his acquittal at his Senate impeachment trial.
Buttigieg appeared to be getting a bounce from his strong performance in Iowa as the latest New Hampshire poll showed the centrist candidate in second place in the Granite State, which holds a primary on Tuesday.
The Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll had Sanders, who won the New Hampshire primary four years ago before eventually losing the nomination to Hillary Clinton, topping the field with 25 percent.
Buttigieg’s support surged to 19 percent from 12 percent on Monday, according to the poll, while Biden saw his backing fall to 12 percent from 18 percent over the same period.
Biden, who described his likely fourth-place finish in Iowa as a “gut punch,” was meeting with advisors on Thursday to map out a strategy. He has topped national polls since entering the crowded race.
“I expected to do better,” Biden said as he took the gloves off and launched attacks on Sanders and Buttigieg.
“If Senator Sanders is the nominee for the party, every Democrat in America… will have to carry the label Senator Sanders has chosen for himself,” Biden said of the self-described democratic socialist.
The 77-year-old Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president, went after the 38-year-old Buttigieg for a relative lack of experience.
“It’s a risk — to be just straight up with you — for this party to nominate someone who’s never held an office higher than the mayor of a town of 100,000 people in Indiana,” Biden said.
The Sanders campaign announced, meanwhile, it had raised $25 million in January, its largest fund-raising month to date.
After the New Hampshire vote, the candidates will turn their sights on the Nevada caucuses on February 22, the South Carolina primary on February 29 and then the March 3 “Super Tuesday,” when 14 states hold primaries
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who is also in the race, chose to ignore the early nominating contests and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads hoping to make a splash on Super Tuesday.
© Agence France-Presse