MANCHESTER, N.H. — Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run gained steam Thursday while his rivals sharpened jabs about his inexperience, a line of attack expected to dominate the Democratic debate Friday.
The absence of Washington experience, however, worked to Mr. Buttigieg’s advantage with some Granite State voters who will go to the polls Tuesday for the nation’s leadoff primary election.
“I like that he’s an outsider,” said Joann Root, 40, a stay-at-home mom who was part of an overflow crowd at a Buttigieg rally in Merrimack.
The same vein ran through the electorate in 2016 and helped deliver the unconventional Donald Trump to the White House.
Mr. Buttigieg enjoyed a burst of energy from his strong finish in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Though the process was marred by technical glitches that delayed results and produced a request by the national party for a recanvass, partial results showed the openly-gay former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, edging out Mr. Sanders for the win.
Mr. Buttigieg had 26.2% to Mr. Sanders’ 26.1% with 97% of the precincts reporting in Iowa.
“We are taking no vote for granted. Obviously, we feel a lot of momentum coming here but I know how New Hampshire is never told what to do. Folks here think for themselves,” Mr. Buttigieg said in Merrimack.
The top finishers from Iowa will be on the debate stage in Manchester on Friday.
Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Sanders will share the stage with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer.
A Monmouth University poll Thursday confirmed Mr. Buttigieg’s momentum, showing him in second place at 20% and closing in on Mr. Sanders, who led the field with 24%. Mr. Biden trailed third at 17%, followed by Ms. Warren at 13%, Ms. Klobuchar at 9%.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who made New Hampshire the focus of her campaign but did not qualify for the debate, tied Mr. Yang for a sixth-place finish at 4% each. Mr. Steyer rounded out the survey with 3%.
After Iowa, where Mr. Biden had an embarrassing fourth-place with 15.8% in the partial results, he took shots at Mr. Buttigieg’s inexperience.
“It is a risk — to be just straight up with it — for this party to nominate somebody who has never had an office higher than a town of 100,000 people in Indiana,” Mr. Biden told a small rally crowd Wednesday in Somersworth.
Ms. Klobuchar avoided mentioning Mr. Buttigieg by name when she made a pitch to voters at a foreign policy forum Thursday at Southern New Hampshire University. Still, she and the mayor are vying for the same moderate lane in the race and both are touting their appeal to independent and Republican voters who have soured on Mr. Trump.
Ms. Klobuchar, who finished fifth in the partial Iowa results with 12.2%, acknowledged to The Washington Times that she frequently lost supporters to Mr. Buttigieg in the caucus process but said her message about Mr. Buttigieg was “very clear.”
“I have the stronger experience and I have the track record of actually winning with moderate Republicans and independents,” said Ms. Klobuchar.
Mr. Sanders arguably has the most riding on the primary. He won the state’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary in a landslide and is a heavy favorite this year.
On Thursday, he convened a press conference to declare a “decisive victory” in the Iowa caucuses.
With nearly all precincts reporting, he won about 6,000 more supporters on the “first alignment” of caucusing and ended up about 2,500 in front of Mr. Buttigieg after the second and final realignment of the night.
The Iowa Democratic Party, however, pointed to the “state delegate equivalent” tally as the most accurate way to report the results from the caucuses. The state delegates determine the number of delegates awarded at the national convention in July.
“What certainly is not going to change is the fact that in terms of the popular vote, we won a decisive victory,” he said. “When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in Northern New England call that a victory.”
David Sherfinski contributed to this report from Washington
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