Buttigieg clings to his lead with 75% of caucus results now in

Former mayor continues to hold a slight lead over Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party Convention. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

With 75% of the Iowa Democratic caucus votes now reported, former mayor Pete Buttigieg is clinging to a narrow lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race for delegates.

The newly updated results were announced at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, and showed Buttigieg retaining 26.9% in the competition for the state’s 41 state delegates. Sanders, who continues to lead in the raw vote totals, claimed  25.2% of the delegates, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 18.2%, and former Vice President Joe Biden with 15.6 percent. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota claimed 12.5% of the delegates.

Those numbers are virtually unchanged from Tuesday afternoon, when 62 percent of the results were announced.

It’s not clear when the remaining 25% of caucus votes will be tabulated and released.

The glacial pace at which the results are being announced is attributable to the method used to check the accuracy of the results. Party officials are literally examining photos and paper records of caucus-site results and comparing that information to the electronically submitted data.

Each site reported three sets of data: first-round candidate preferences, second-round preferences, and the final allocation of state delegate equivalents. All three sets of data have to be checked against the paper records and photos.

Buttigieg appears to be one of the main beneficiaries of the state’s system of conducting two rounds of caucus-site voting, which allows Iowans to switch their allegiance if their preferred candidate doesn’t garner enough support to be viable. Buttigieg appeared to be many voters’ “second choice,” giving him an edge in the final assignment of state delegates.

Warren also benefited from that process, failing to rank as the top choice in any Iowa counties, but still collecting delegates due to her appeal as Iowans’ second- or third-choice candidate.

That could bode well for the two candidates in the upcoming primaries, as it appears to signal broad support even among those who may be inclined to vote for someone else if given the opportunity.

Biden’s poor showing has not come as a complete surprise, as he never seemed to gain traction in Iowa and his campaign had been working for months to lower expectations in the state.

The former vice president also isn’t expected to do well in the upcoming New Hampshire primary, and has been pinning his hopes on a strong showing in South Carolina.

“We took a gut punch in Iowa,” Biden told supporters on Wednesday in New Hampshire, adding that “this is not the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.”

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.