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Iowa caucus live updates: Buttigieg, Sanders reach virtual tie with 100 percent of results released

The first-in-the-nation voting state was thrown into disarray late Monday after the Iowa Democratic Party delayed releasing results.

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The Iowa Democratic Party announced the release of 100 percent of the state caucus results Thursday night, showing Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders neck and neck in their lead over the rest of the Democratic candidates. The results could change as more data is examined, and NBC has not called a winner in the race.

The Iowa Democrats' announcement comes after Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez called on state party officials to recanvass the results of Monday's caucuses amid growing concerns about their accuracy (see NBC News' review of the results).

Caucusgoers gathered at nearly 1,700 sites across Iowa on Monday night to tally support for their preferred candidates only for the count to be thrown into disarray when what Iowa Democrats called "inconsistencies" delayed the reporting of results.

The state has 41 pledged delegates up for grabs, and the high-stakes contest traditionally plays a major role in determining who is a legitimate contender in the race. Candidates in the crowded Democratic field needed to meet a threshold of support (at least 15 percent of attendees at most caucus sites) to become viable, or they saw supporters move on to someone else.

Highlights from the Iowa caucuses

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Live Blog

Caucusing while married

Editor’s note: The author, a writer at "Dateline NBC" with Lester Holt, is a friend of Laurie Sands and David Busiek and will follow what happens to them and the rest of the caucusgoers at Hoover High School in Des Moines for NBC News' live blog. Tune in for more posts as the day progresses. 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Like a lot of couples across America this primary season, Laurie Sands and David Busiek are supporting different candidates. But in a caucus state, that means heading out to your local high school gym and very possibly competing against your spouse in real time all evening, trying to persuade friends and neighbors to support your chosen candidate — and not your partner’s.

Sands is supporting former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Busiek is backing Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Lorna Graham / NBC News

Sands, a former Des Moines school board member, has caucused every presidential election year since 1979. She says she supports Buttigieg because, “His values are values that unite us as a country. He’s all about inclusivity. When you volunteer for him, you follow ‘10 Rules of the Road’ for how we treat each other and those from other campaigns."

She adds, "He’s 38 but his age doesn’t reflect his experience, wisdom and creativity. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote Declaration of Independence!” 

Busiek, a former news director at the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, was never able to air his political views publicly, but now that he is newly retired, he's attending his first caucus.

He called Klobuchar "bright, articulate and calm," adding that she was "very good" during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, "very much the adult in the room." He added that he likes her "experience, age and emphasis on practical solutions" and that she’s a "Midwesterner.”

Sands says she wishes they were supporting the same candidate and adds that she hopes they don’t wind up going head-to-head for the exact same voters Monday night. “That would be tough.”

“We do so many things in alignment, and this is so important," she said. "So, to me, this is stressful.” 

For Busiek? Not so much. “Our candidates are not so far apart," he said. "We’re ultimately working for the same things.” 

ANALYSIS: Caucus game theory

By Tuesday morning, it should be obvious whether any of the Democratic campaigns struck deals to partner up — or simply executed a superior strategy — on caucus night.

The permutations of caucus game theory are endless. But here are a few things to think about as you watch tonight, and one big reason to be skeptical that the invisible hands of political operatives are able manipulate the process.

At each of the caucus locations across the state, there’s a first round of candidate selection. Candidates who receive 15 percent support are considered viable and those who don’t are considered not viable. The caucusgoers who sided with nonviable candidates are then allowed to realign, if they choose, in a second round. They can realign to boost the score for an already viable candidate or match up with a group of other caucusgoers to try to make a nonviable candidate viable. 

Because it’s a multiround public voting system in which neighbors actively try to persuade each other to join the cluster for one candidate or another, there’s potentially a lot of room for dealmaking.

But it’s all complicated. A campaign that appears to be twisting arms too hard or that conspires with a second campaign to stab a third candidate in the back for its own benefit may see the tactic backfire on caucus night or in later stages of the nomination fight.

So, campaigns have to decide whether to deploy any strategy beyond simply persuading caucusgoers to back their own candidates, determine which other candidates the campaign would want to help or hurt, and judge which adversaries make good targets for potential dealmaking. And the answers to those questions might fluctuate depending on the caucus site and across the state as results from nearly 1,700 locations start to become clear. 

That is, all the players are processing a lot of information at once, which means a bad move could be worse than no move at all. It’s a little less complicated if there’s a clear alignment between candidates on ideological grounds — say, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who both represent the progressive wing of the Democratic electorate. But those candidates are also in competition with each other.

Former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who won the Iowa caucuses in 2004, told NBC News on Sunday that there’s usually a lot of talk but not much actual action.

“There are some conversations, but I think too much is made of the capacity to execute because people in Iowa are very independent,” Kerry said. “They don’t want to be mass-moved.”

Debunked claims about Iowa voter fraud pushed by conservative activists

Allegations of impending voter fraud in Iowa, pushed by conservative activists with debunked evidence, are being shared widely on Twitter ahead of the Iowa caucuses. 

The viral claims originated Sunday with a tweet by Tom Fitton, president of the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. 

“BIG: Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register,” Fitton posted, alongside a YouTube video of him interviewing a Judicial Watch attorney. 

On Twitter, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate called the claim “false” and posted a link to the county-by-county voter registration totals. 

“They are updated monthly and available online for everyone to see,” he wrote.

Fitton, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, has previously posted claims that independent fact-checkers have rated false and has claimed without evidence that Democrats want “to steal elections.” 

Fitton’s tweet has been retweeted more than 6,000 times and gained almost 9,000 likes. But it was Charlie Kirk’s tweet — which copied Fitton’s text without attribution — that went viral, earning almost 40,000 retweets and more than 56,000 likes. Kirk is the president of the conservative group Turning Point USA.

“Don’t let voter fraud steal the 2020 election,” Kirk added, urging users to retweet for a national Voter ID. 

Allegations of voter fraud are one of the most popular topics in voter misinformation campaigns. Last week, Twitter announced a new tool that lets users report tweets with misleading information about how to participate in the election. 

“We’re seeing a recent uptick in activity spreading false info about widespread voter fraud,” tweeted David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a nonprofit dedicated to election security and accessibility. “Again, the data on this is clear and conclusive — voter fraud is extremely rare, accounting for maybe dozens of votes out of hundreds of millions.”

Iowa will test whether Steyer's spending strategy works

DES MOINES, Iowa — With voting set to start in the 2020 Democratic presidential contests, billionaire Tom Steyer is about to face a critical test: whether the prodigious spending that has thus far buoyed his candidacy will win over enough voters to propel it into the next phase of the contest.  

The 62-year-old former hedge fund manager is also sharpening his message, casting himself as an uncompromising progressive in hopes of capitalizing on the distaste and discomfort a distinct coalition of voters feel toward the political establishment. But Steyer, well behind in most polls both nationally and in early voting states, needs to turn out more than just a handful of voters tired of the political system. 

By portraying himself as a leader with experience outside the Beltway, Steyer, in the final sprint through Iowa and other early states, aims to turn out voters who don’t always participate in elections — highlighting his investment in commonly overlooked communities.

Read more here.

Bloomberg: 'No question' that Trump is 'worried about me'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s “no question” that President Donald Trump fears running against him in a general election, after a feud between the two New Yorkers escalated over the weekend. 

In an exclusive interview with NBC News in California, Bloomberg looked past his Democratic rivals who are competing in the Iowa caucuses Monday, insisting his own future in the race won’t be affected by the results of the caucuses. Instead, Bloomberg said, he’s “running against Donald Trump.” 

“I think there’s no question that he’s worried about me, because otherwise he wouldn’t respond,” Bloomberg says. “Donald doesn’t want to run against me because he knows I’ve taken him on, and every time, I’ve beaten him. I’m trying to tell the public what I did and what I will do and not get into a silly contest. He can’t run on his record.” 

Read more here.

Buttigieg: 'Everything’s come down to today'

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave volunteers some final words of encouragement Tuesday afternoon.

“Everything’s come down to today,” Buttigieg, who has bet big on Iowa, said to volunteers at a West Des Moines field office as they prepared to knock on doors in the final few hours before the caucuses. 

“Know that you are part of an absolute force that is sweeping through the state of Iowa right now,” Buttigieg continued. 

Buttigieg thanked his volunteers for their hard work, and took a moment to celebrate that, after "all of the debates, all of the appearances, all of the conversations," caucus day was here.

Bernie Sanders has edge in Google searches ahead of caucuses

More people searched on Google for Bernie Sanders in the Des Moines area in the 30 days leading up to Monday night's caucus than any other candidate, data from the company shows.

Sanders, who has seen a surge in the polls, outpaced Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg in the past months, according to Google Trends. Joe Biden came in fourth. 

The data looks at search volume on a relative basis. Des Moines residents showed a particular interest in search for Sanders on Saturday, the latest day for which data is available.  

Bloomberg campaigns in California as the rest of the field focuses on Iowa

While the 2020 presidential candidates focus their attention on Monday's Iowa caucuses, former New York City mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg is campaigning in a state with 10 times the number of delegates at stake: California. 

Bloomberg, who vowed to skip the early voting states that have traditionally been the starting point in the nominating process, is visiting California for the fourth time encouraging people to participate in the state’s mail-in and early voting periods that start this week.

More people are expected to vote early in California than are expected to participate in the Iowa caucuses Monday. Iowa determines just 1 percent of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention. 

Bloomberg’s counterprogramming to the Iowa caucuses highlights his unconventional campaign and his strategy to focus on delegate-rich states that vote later in the primary season.

California votes on Super Tuesday, March 3, one month after Iowa.

Bernie Sanders raised more online from Iowans than rest of Dem field

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the clock ticks closer to Monday night's Iowa caucuses, new federal election filings from the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue provide the latest glimpse as to each candidates' financial strength in the Hawkeye State. 

That new data shows that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., raised more money online from Iowans, $703,000, than his Democratic presidential rivals in all of 2019. 

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, raised the second most with $519,000, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's $418,000, former Vice President Joe Biden's $251,000,  Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's $185,000 and businessman Andrew Yang's $142,000. 

Read more here.