A debate featuring seven Democratic presidential candidates has started in New Hampshire amid a growing urgency among a shrinking field shaken and reshaped by this week's chaotic Iowa caucuses.
Friday night's debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester comes just four days before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.
Monday's chaotic Iowa caucuses raised deeper questions about several candidates’ political survival. Two candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, enter Friday's debate as the top targets, having emerged from Iowa essentially tied for the lead.
Those trailing after the first contest — including former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — also have an urgent need to demonstrate strength.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer and New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang are fighting to prove they belong in the conversation. The next set of caucuses is in Nevada on Feb. 22.
The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday released what it said was 100% of the precincts from Monday's caucuses. Sanders and Buttigieg ended up in what is essentially a tie. Buttigieg beat Sanders by 0.1% in the state delegate equivalents, but Sanders won when counting the actual votes.
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The Associated Press said Thursday it could not declare a winner. saying there is evidence the party has not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete.
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez called for a recanvasing of the results. The AP says that process would likely require state officials to review caucus math worksheets completed at more than 1,600 caucus sites. But, the final decision on that is up to the Iowa Democratic Party, which suggestedit would conduct a recanvass if one of the campaigns asked.
Sanders and Buttigieg will be joined on stage by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Warren finished third in Iowa. Biden, who polled at or near the top for most of the campaign season, finished a distant fourth. Both of them need a good showing, in part, to use as a fundraising boost. The Associated Press reports their campaigns have shifted their money around, canceled ad buys and sent out emails pleading for donations.
Sanders and Buttigieg are not having that problem. Sanders' campaign announced Thursday it had raised $25 million in January and was immediately going to put more than $5 million of that into ad buys for Super Tuesday next month, including in the delegate-rich states of California and Texas.
Buttigieg attended three fundraisers in New York and New Jersey this week after he declared victory Monday night. That declaration came before official results were released.
Sanders declared victory Thursday, saying he earned 6,000 more initial votes than any other candidate.
Klobuchar, Yang and Steyer finished fifth through seventh in Iowa, respectively. But Yang and Steyer barely registered.
Still not on the debate stage is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He's reportedly spent $300 million of his estimated $61 billion fortune on campaign ads so far. He has not qualified for any debates because either he hadn't been running yet or because the debates had a grassroots fundraising requirement.
The Democratic National Committee eliminated the donor requirement for the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas, which could allow Bloomberg in. He would need at least 10% support in four polls released between Jan. 15 and Feb. 18, or 12% in two polls in Nevada or South Carolina. As of Friday morning, Bloomberg had hit 10% in only one poll, according to a Politico poll tracker.