Confusion and chaos marked the first vote in the Democratic Party election in Iowa on Tuesday as a poll to choose US President Donald Trump’s challenger went awry.
More than 12 hours after the state cast its votes in the country’s unique caucus system, no result was announced. The delay was attributed to a new app and fear of “inconsistencies” in reporting of data.
The delay, unprecedented in the party’s election history, caused anger from voters and triggered accusations against the Iowa Democratic Party of trampling voter confidence in a crucial election year.
It was a combination of human error and lack of expertise on a new app to report the results that caused the stumble, but politically the damage went beyond the technical aspect.
Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg claimed his campaign was “victorious”.
“Iowa you have shocked the nation. By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious,” he said before midnight on Monday.
But his rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, shot back just hours later, releasing campaign polling data that showed him ahead in the vote with 40 per cent of the precincts in the state counted.
Former vice president Joe Biden and senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar delivered upbeat speeches and moved on to New Hampshire, which is typically the second stop on the caucus roadshow and voted on Tuesday.
For Mr Biden, who had been underperforming in the polls in the run-up to the vote, the Iowa meltdown served as a handy distraction.
Unfortunately, late results also rob the winner of the much-needed impetus that previous competitors have achieved in the state. Mr Buttigeig and Mr Sanders invested heavily in Iowa to gain that momentum.
Another beneficiary of the Iowa chaos is former mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg, who skipped the Hawkeye state altogether and is focusing on the delegate-rich states of Super Tuesday.
Fifteen states will vote for their Democratic candidate on March 3.
Mr Bloomberg’s strategy could pay off if Mr Biden continues to stumble and no clear frontrunner emerges by then.
The gaffe also gave ammunition to the Republican Party, which ridiculed the Democrat’s handling of its first 2020 election.
Mr Trump called the process an “unmitigated disaster".
“The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is Trump," he said.
The US President won his own party’s vote in Iowa and is expected to cruise to nomination for his second term bid.