(Reuters) – As Democratic presidential candidates made a final push for New Hampshire voters on Sunday, the top Democratic Party official said he was “mad as hell” about the Iowa caucus debacle and threatened the state’s status as holding the first presidential contest.
In New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg cheerfully deflected attacks from his older, more well-known rivals as Democratic presidential rivals jostled to dampen the momentum of the young ex-mayor from Indiana.
Democratic hopefuls also made their case on the airwaves early Sunday as they competed to become the candidate to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.
Here is what is happening on the campaign trail.
Last week’s Iowa caucuses were plagued with problems including a glitchy mobile app used for the first time to report results. By week’s end, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was effectively tied with the 38-year-old Buttigieg.
“I’m frustrated. I’m mad as hell – everybody is,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Perez has been pushing states to move away from the complicated caucus system toward more straightforward primary contests, and for state parties to cede control to state election officials.
He said the lessons from Iowa were clear: state parties should focus on what they do best- organizing, building coalitions and winning elections.
He said he was looking forward to conversations about state parties getting out of the business of running elections “but also we’re going to have a conversation about order as well.”
Some Democrats are increasingly complaining about the outsize impact of Iowa and New Hampshire – states that do not represent the diversity of the party – on the primary election process.
Perez was asked if that meant Iowa is about to lose its first-in-the-nation status.
“That’s the conversation that will absolutely happen after this election cycle,” he said.
The Iowa Democratic Party was reviewing results from 95 precincts and planned to release corrections by midday Monday.
The two candidates tied for first place in last week’s Iowa caucuses, Buttigieg and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, exchanged barbs on Sunday television news shows before returning to the campaign trail.
Sanders has begun criticizing Buttigieg for taking big money from “40 billionaires.” “That is precisely the problem with American politics,” Sanders said on CBS “Face the Nation.”
Buttigieg countered that he has never hesitated to stand up to industry, and then took a jab at Sanders’ wealth. The ex-mayor likes to note he is the least wealthy of the Democratic candidates.
“Well, Bernie’s pretty rich, and I would happily accept a contribution from him,” Buttigieg said on CNN.
Asked about former Vice President Joe Biden’s assertion that he was not Barack Obama, another lesser-known and inexperienced Democrat who won the 2008 presidential election, Buttigieg hit back.
“He’s right. I’m not. But neither is he,” he said on CNN.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker