The Iowa Democratic Party released partial results of its kickoff presidential caucus after a day-long delay late Tuesday showing former midwestern mayor Pete Buttigieg and progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading the opening contest of the party’s 2020 primary season.
The results followed 24 hours of chaos as technical problems marred the complicated caucus process, forcing state officials to apologize and raising questions about Iowa’s traditional place atop the presidential primary calendar.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former vice-president Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were trailing in the tally of State Delegate Equivalents, according to data released for the first time by the state Democratic Party more than 24 hours after voting concluded.
The results reflected 71 per cent of precincts in the state.
The two early leaders, Buttigieg and Sanders, were separated by 40 years in age, conflicting ideology and more.
Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, has been a progressive powerhouse for decades, while the 38-year-old Buttigieg’s early standing cemented his transformation from a little-known Indiana mayor to a legitimate force in the 2020 contest. Buttigieg is also the first openly gay candidate to earn presidential primary delegates.
“We don’t know all of the numbers, but we know this much: A campaign that started a year ago with four staff members, no name recognition, no money, just a big idea a campaign that some said should have no business even making this attempt has taken its place at the front of this race,” Buttigieg declared, his voice filled with emotion, as he campaigned in next-up New Hampshire with his husband looking on.
Buttigieg’s early rise was rivalled for possible importance by the struggle of another moderate, Biden.
Biden downplays results
One of his party’s most accomplished figures, the former two-term vice-president and longtime senator was mired in the second tier of Iowa candidates with almost two-thirds of precincts reporting. Biden’s campaign sought to downplay the caucus results even before they were released, hardly a measure of strength for a high-profile contender who has led national polls for most of the last year.
“We believe we will emerge with the delegates we need to continue on our path to nomination,” said Symone Sanders, a senior adviser.
While all campaigns were eager to spin the Iowa results to their advantage, there was little immediate indication that the incomplete results erased the confusion and concern that loomed over the caucuses. It was unclear when the full results would be released.
During a private conference call with campaigns earlier in the day, state party chair Troy Price declined to answer pointed questions about the timeline even whether it would be days or weeks.
“We have been working day and night to make sure these results are accurate,” Price said at a subsequent news conference.
Company expresses regret
Officials blamed inconsistencies related to a new mobile app used for vote counting for the unusual delay.
The company that produced the app, Shadow, Inc. expressed regret over the delay on Twitter and said the issue did not affect the underlying results. 
We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last nights Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers.
—@ShadowIncHQ
Importantly, this issue did not affect the underlying caucus results data. We worked as quickly as possible overnight to resolve this issue, and the IDP has worked diligently to verify results.
—@ShadowIncHQ
Democrats in Nevada, the third state to vote, now say they’re scrapping plans to use the same mobile reporting app for their caucuses, set for Feb. 22. 
Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News on Tuesday that there was no indication of “any malicious cyberactivity.”
He added that Iowa Democrats declined his department’s offer to test the reporting app. That’s not unusual, as outside security firms do similar testing. The state party had said previously it had worked closely with security experts to test the app.
‘This is not a hack’
Des Moines County Democratic chair Tom Courtney said he heard that in precincts across his county, including his own, the mobile app was “a mess.”
When precinct leaders called Democratic Party headquarters, “they weren’t answering the phones,” Courtney said.
WATCH | Buttigieg takes lead in delayed Iowa caucus results:
Pete Buttigieg took some by surprise by taking the lead in the early results out of the Iowa Democratic caucus. The results were supposed to come in via a mobile app, but are being counted by hand after the app didnt work.3:01
The state Democratic Party was sending volunteers and staffers across the state Tuesday to retrieve hard-copy results of the caucuses so they can check them against results reported from precincts via the party’s app and over the phone, according to multiple sources working for the party on crunching numbers and granted anonymity to discuss sensitive party information.
Organizers running precincts in Iowa didn’t get to test the app beforehand. Iowa party officials had said they would not be sending the new mobile app to precinct chairs for downloading until just before the caucuses to narrow the window for any interference. Some precinct chairs said they had trouble downloading or logging into the app and didn’t use it.
“We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” the party said in a statement. “This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.”
Don’t jump to conclusions, expert says
President Donald Trump’s campaign quickly seized on the issue to sow doubt about the validity of the results.
“Quality control (equals) rigged?” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Monday evening, adding a emoji with furrowed brows.
Richard L. Hasen, an election expert and professor at University of California, Irvine School of Law, cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the integrity of the election.
“Most of the time when there is a problem with an election it turns out to be the result of administrative incompetence rather than someone cheating or some outside interference,” Hasen said.
The leading candidates pressed on in New Hampshire, which votes in just seven days. 
Iowa marked the first contest in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several U.S. territories, ending at the party’s national convention in July.