Democratic Party presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg, 38, and Bernie Sanders, 78, were leading in the Iowa caucuses in the first results announced almost 24 hours after they kicked off, in the first indication of Democratic voter preference for a candidate to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
By around midnight (1pm Singapore time yesterday), with 71 per cent of precincts reporting and no word on when the final count would be out, the numbers showed former vice-president Joe Biden trailing fourth behind former mayor Buttigieg, Senator Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, 70.
A question mark now hangs over Mr Biden, 77. Thus far the party's front runner nationally, he was seen as lacking energy in his appearances in Iowa.
Meanwhile, the delay in the results because of a "coding problem" on an app used by the Iowa Democratic Party has come as a major embarrassment for the party and the state of Iowa as well.
Mr Trump pounced on the episode, tweeting: "The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the country... The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is 'Trump'."
Addressing a crowd of supporters in the town of Laconia in New Hampshire, Mr Buttigieg hailed the "astonishing" early results for a gay millennial, military veteran and small-city mayor who was unknown nationally just one year ago, and who started his bid with a staff of four.
"No matter what happens next, this much is undeniable, that fact represents an astonishing victory for this campaign, this candidacy and this vision that you all have been a part of," he said.
Iowa has been holding caucuses since 1972 - an event which has become the traditional start of the campaign and a feature of the American electoral system.
Some, including high-spending billionaire candidate Michael Bloomberg, have questioned their importance. Mr Bloomberg, 77, was absent from the caucuses but spent roughly US$10 million (S$13.7 million) on a Super Bowl advertisement, going head to head with Mr Trump at the event the night before the voting.
The caucuses do showcase a pure form of democracy, with candidates' supporters in the same room vying for support and voting for their preference for president, from among the candidates.
But they have also become a spectacle. The picturesque golden dome of the State Capitol in Des Moines provides a spectacular backdrop for media crews from across the country and the world. Foreign diplomats and officials visit to witness the process. They are Iowa's moment in the sun.
But the full results of the two-hour caucuses in almost 17,000 precincts across the state remained unannounced even after every candidate and most of the media had left the state, mostly to go to New Hampshire for the critical Feb 11 primary.
"I don't think there's a lot of ways that one can spin this to be a positive for the state of Iowa or the Democratic Party," Dr Karen Kedrowski, director of the Catt Centre for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, told The Straits Times.
She added that the Iowa Democratic Party is a small organisation and privately funded. It had to raise millions of dollars in order to pull off an event under international scrutiny, and financially, did not have the wherewithal to test the system as completely as it should have, she said.