MANCHESTER, N.H. – Supporters of President Donald Trump flooded a hotline used by Iowa precinct chairs to report Democratic caucus results after the telephone number was posted online, worsening delays in the statewide tally, a top state Democrat told party leaders on a conference call Wednesday night.
Pete Buttigieg clung to a slight lead over Bernie Sanders in a new batch of vote totals released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday, two days after the state hosted its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.
But the race remained too early to call with 96% of precincts reporting. Buttigieg narrowly led with 26.4% of state delegates, to 25.7% for Sanders.
According to two participants on the call, Ken Sagar, a state Democratic central committee member, was among those answering the hotline on caucus night and said people called in and expressed support for Trump.
The phone number became public after people posted photos on social media of caucus paperwork that included the hotline number, one of the people on the call said.
The phone call Wednesday night between the Iowa Democratic Party staff and state central committee, the party's elected governing body, came as the party was still counting results.
Several glitches, including problems with a new phone application that was supposed to quickly send individual caucus results to the state party, plagued Iowa's troubled caucuses, causing the outcome to be delayed for days. More than 48 hours after caucusing began, the party had reported results from 96% of precincts and the race was too close to call.
Sagar, who is also president of the Iowa AFL-CIO, declined to comment when reached by Bloomberg News. Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, alluded to interference on the conference call, but did not specifically cite Trump supporters.
The state party declined to comment Wednesday.
But the Trump campaign weighed in.
"Don't know anything about that but maybe Democrats should consider using an app of some kind next time," Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump's campaign, wrote in a text message Wednesday night.
When the phone application malfunctioned, precinct chairs turned to the telephone hotline to get the results to the Iowa Democratic Party. Many were placed on long holds and some gave up.
Shawn Sebastian, the caucus secretary for a precinct in Story County, was on hold with the state party for an hour trying to report results through the hotline because of app problems.
Party officials came on the phone while he was being interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who asked Sebastian to report his precinct's results while he was on air. He agreed but by the time he turned back to the state party, officials had hung up on him.
Price has been working to assure Democratic leaders that the party is taking every step to confirm the accuracy of the results. On Tuesday, he sent an e-mail to the state central committee, outlining the steps the party has taken.
The app's troubles started before caucusing began. On Monday morning, multiple precinct chairs reported difficulties downloading and logging into the app.
Then, once the results came in, the Iowa Democratic Party said there was a "coding error."
The Democrats' primary fight intensified in New Hampshire on Wednesday as Biden took aim at both Iowa front-runners.
The former vice president suggested that Sanders was unelectable and would hurt other Democrats on the ballot this fall should he represent the party in the general election. Biden also charged that it would be "a risk" to nominate Buttigieg because he hasn't been elected to a higher office than South Bend mayor.
The New York Times contributed to this report.