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With Sanders Clearly Ahead in Iowa Popular Vote, Buttigieg Chided for Declaring Himself Official Winner Based on Error-Filled Delegate Count

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg prepares for television interview in the spin room after the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

While Sanders Declares Victory in Iowa Popular Vote, Buttigieg Chided for Claiming He 'Officially Won' Based on Error-Filled Delegate Count

The Sanders campaign issued a statement Thursday night highlighting more than a dozen "discrepancies in the state delegate equivalent data" that it sent to the Iowa Democratic Party.

Jake Johnson

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and CNN came under fire late Thursday for uncritically boosting the latest batch of Iowa Democratic caucus results, which—as documented by news outlets and observers—contained a number of glaring errors that the Iowa Democratic Party has yet to fix.

"Given the rules changes we fought for that required the release of the popular vote count, SDEs are now an antiquated and meaningless metric for deciding the winner of the Iowa caucus."
—Jeff Weaver, senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders

After CNN anchor Chris Cuomo introduced Buttigieg at a town hall at Saint Anselm College Thursday night as the "leader" of the Iowa caucuses with "100%" of precincts reported, the former mayor declared, "That's fantastic news to hear that we won."

"Sen. Sanders clearly had a great night, too, and I congratulate him and his supporters," said Buttigieg, who later sent an email to supporters proclaiming that he "officially won the Iowa caucuses."

But both Cuomo and Buttigieg failed during the town hall to note widespread concerns that the supposedly complete Iowa caucus results—which showed Buttigieg leading by one-tenth of a percentage point in state delegate equivalents (SDEs)—were riddled with obvious errors.

"I'm more embarrassed for CNN than for the [Iowa Democratic Party] tonight," tweeted Daniel Nichanian, editor of The Appeal, who highlighted a slew of errors in the caucus results. "It's one thing for a party to do PR (or whatever this is). It's another thing for a media outlet to just take what's effectively a party's verifiably incorrect press release and broadcast it as if it's gospel."

CNN said it "plans to report a winner" as early as Friday afternoon if no candidate files an official request for a recount. "Unacceptable," Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project said of CNN and Buttigieg's handling of the results.

The Associated Press, on the other hand, announced Thursday night that because "there is evidence the party has not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete," it is unable to declare a winner.

Despite the Iowa Democratic Party's claim that 100% of the precinct results have been reported—an assertion echoed by many media outlets—one observer highlighted what appeared to be a completely missing precinct. The Des Moines Register's tally of the caucus results remains at 99.9% with 1764 of 1765 precincts reporting.

"On quick examination, all of my 'favorite'—forgive me—possible/likely errors are still there," New York Times reporter Nate Cohn tweeted in response to the new batch of results. The Times reported Thursday that "more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data, or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses."

"I suspect I can say this without crossing the line into opinion: this is the worst conceived and executed electoral contest I have ever seen," Cohn added.

The Sanders campaign, which declared victory in Iowa Thursday on the basis of its overwhelming and clear lead in the popular vote, issued a statement Thursday night highlighting more than a dozen "discrepancies in the state delegate equivalent data" that it sent to the Iowa Democratic Party.

"Tonight's release of data by the Iowa Democratic Party confirms Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Iowa caucus," Sanders' senior adviser Jeff Weaver said. "We also feel confident that the discrepancies we're providing tonight, in addition to those widely identified in the national media, mean that the SDE count will never be known with any kind of certainty."

"Given the rules changes we fought for that required the release of the popular vote count," said Weaver, "SDEs are now an antiquated and meaningless metric for deciding the winner of the Iowa caucus."

The latest results showed Sanders with a more than 6,000-vote lead over Buttigieg in the first alignment and a more than 2,600-vote lead in the final alignment.

The discrepancies released by the Sanders campaign can be viewed below:

During his own town hall at Saint Anselm College Thursday night, just ahead of Buttigieg's, the Vermont senator said "it is really sad that the Democratic Party of Iowa, if I may say so, screwed up the counting process quite so badly."

"But at the end of the day," Sanders added, "we ended up winning the popular vote."

Sanders said he expects to end up with the same number of national pledged delegates in Iowa as Buttigieg and noted that he is now focused on winning the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary.

"We've got enough of Iowa," Sanders said to laughter from the audience. "Move on to New Hampshire."

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