DEMOCRATIC White House candidate Pete Buttigieg seized a shock lead in the chaotic Iowa caucuses, closely trailed by leftist senator Bernie Sanders, according to partial returns released on Tuesday after an embarrassing delay in reporting the results.
Progressive standard-bearer Elizabeth Warren was in third place followed by Joe Biden, a disappointing showing for the former vice president who has claimed he is best positioned to defeat Donald Trump in November.
Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has been battling Biden for the moderate wing of the party, hailed what he called an “astonishing victory” in the midwestern farm state which kicks off the presidential nominating process.
“I have never been more confident in our campaign, in our team, and in the vision that brought to us this point,” Buttigieg told ecstatic supporters in New Hampshire, which holds the next nominating contest on February 11.
Tonight’s results not only represent an astonishing victory for our movement, they validate the message of belonging that brought us here. If you believe that a new and better vision can bring about a better day, join us: https://t.co/LWHhgdDDU4 pic.twitter.com/XHrhNQvrZL
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 5, 2020
With polls still mixed on whether Americans would be comfortable with an openly gay president, Buttigieg also made a rare, though implicit, reference to his sexuality — and the added significance it gave the Iowa outcome.
“It validates for a kid, somewhere in a community, wondering if he belongs, or she belongs, or they belong in their own family, that if you believe in yourself and your country there’s a lot backing up that belief,” he said with a catch in his voice.
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wait for results at his caucus night watch party in Des Moines, Iowa
According to the partial results, Buttigieg, unknown nationally a year ago, leads with 26.8 percent followed by Sanders, the 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, with 25.2 percent, followed by Senator Warren with 18.4 percent, and Biden with 15.4 percent.
The centrist senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar was in fifth place on 12.6 percent, with 71 percent of the precincts reporting.
The results were posted some 21 hours after Iowans gathered across the state to hold the first vote of the presidential nominating season.
Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, apologized profusely for the delay and blamed it on a “coding error” with an app being used for the first time to report the returns from precincts across the farm state.
Price pledged to provide the full results as soon as possible.