White House hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were in a dead heat on Thursday with final results trickling in from Iowa’s bungled Democratic caucuses as the candidates focused on the next nomination battleground: New Hampshire.
With returns in from 97 percent of the 1,765 precincts in Iowa, Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was leading Vermont Senator Sanders by a razor-thin 26.2 percent to 26.1 percent.
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Massachusetts Senator 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.
Iowans held caucuses on Monday but results from the first-in-the-nation contest to decide the Democratic nominee to face President Donald Trump in November have been delayed by a technical meltdown which has left the Iowa Democratic Party red-faced.
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 from 12 percent on Monday to 19 percent now, according to the poll, while Biden saw his backing fall from 18 percent to 12 percent over the same period.
“Buttigieg’s movement is real,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which conducted the poll, told the Boston Globe. “This is beginning to shape up to be a two-person race.”
– ‘Gut punch’ –
Biden, who described his likely fourth-place finish in Iowa as a “gut punch,” was meeting with his advisors on Thursday to map out a strategy moving forward.
Biden has topped the national opinion polls since entering the crowded race for the Democratic presidential nomination and his poor Iowa performance was a jolt to his campaign.
“I expected to do better and I expected our organization to do better,” Biden said during a CNN Town Hall in Manchester on Wednesday.
“But the fact is I’m happy to be here in New Hampshire,” he said.
Biden also took the gloves off and stepped up his 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.
“He calls himself a democratic socialist,” he said of Sanders. “Well, we’re already seeing what Donald Trump is going to do with that.”
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 mayor of a town of 100,000 people in Indiana,” Biden said.
“He has enormous potential,” he said of Buttigieg. “But I think we need a president who can bring us together, a leader who can unite the party and unite the country.”
The Sanders campaign announced, meanwhile, that it had raised a whopping $25 million in donations in January, its largest fund-raising month to date.
“Working class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement.
After the New Hampshire vote, the candidates will turn their sights on the Nevada caucuses on February 22 and then “Super Tuesday,” when 14 states hold primaries.
Another Democratic hopeful, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, chose to ignore the early nominating contests and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television and internet ads hoping to make a splash on Super Tuesday.