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Openly gay Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg declared his campaign to be “victorious” following the caucus voting in Iowa Monday night, even though a huge controversy was unfolding because the Iowa Democratic Party could not report results due to a “quality control” issue.
But news coverage by major broadcast and cable media outlets throughout the night seemed to support a conclusion that Buttigieg did very well, perhaps even a second-place finish.
“Pete has shattered expectations for his candidacy throughout the campaign, and he will continue to do so in the primary states ahead,” said Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Buttigieg last July. “Tonight’s strong showing provides the publicity and momentum he needs to head into New Hampshire. The many undecided voters who are out there will take a first look, or another look, at Pete, and they will like what they see.”
At most caucus sites covered by CNN, MSNBC and others, Buttigieg supporters consistently had large turnouts, with crowds that appeared to approximate those of Iowa front-runner U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Supporters of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren occasionally fell short of the numbers needed to advance, and the turnout for former Vice President Joe Biden seemed frequently well short of a “viable” 15 percent required to secure state delegates.
Three sets of data were counted Monday night at each of 1,638 caucus gatherings: how many people stood with a candidate initially, how many stood with a candidate in a final count, and how many state delegates each candidate secured based on that “final alignment.”
Caucus officials were supposed to download a phone app and report the data to the state party office. But the app failed and a backup plan — to phone in results — left captains on hold for hours. Eventually, the state party issued a statement saying it was seeing “inconsistencies” in the results reported and that the data would not be released publicly until it was confident of the results.
As the failure to report the results dragged on, it unleashed a firestorm of criticism of the state party, the caucus process, and even Iowa’s status as the first-in-nation voting. The Iowa party said it did establish a paper trail that will ultimately provide a reliable count but gave no indication of when that might be.
But Buttigieg expressed confidence.
“We know by the time it’s all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation, because by all indications,” he said, “we are going on to NH victorious.”
Sanders was more cautious, saying that, “when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa.”
The Warren campaign told reporters in Iowa that the campaign’s data is showing a “tight race” between Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg.
There was some evidence that LGBTQ support was also closely divided. Openly lesbian Iowa State Rep. Liz Bennett of Cedar Rapids endorsed Warren last July. Openly gay Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy of Des Moines endorsed Buttigieg in September.
Elsewhere, the LGBTQ vote seems split, too.
There have been at least two attempts to quantify LGBTQ support for Buttigieg and other Democratic presidential candidates, with no consistency.
Equality California announced Jan. 30 that it is endorsing Buttigieg. The group is the largest statewide LGBTQ political organization in the nation. In a joint statement with Nevada’s group, Silver State Equality, it said Buttigieg has the “boldest, most comprehensive agenda to achieve full, lived equality for all LGBTQ people of any presidential candidate in the nation’s history.”
The groups said that, while they were “impressed” with Warren and businessman Tom Steyer, they felt “Mayor Pete is the best candidate to take on Donald Trump, win back the White House and help lead the fight to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people.”
The groups emphasized that they did not endorse Buttigieg “simply because he’s gay” but that they feel his candidacy “has already had a transformational impact on the LGBTQ community.”
In his post-caucus rally speech late Monday night, Buttigieg thanked his mother, his late father and “the love of my life,” husband Chasten Buttigieg. When he asked the crowd to give a hand “for the future First Gentleman of the United States,” the crowded room cheered wildly.