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Release of key Iowa poll canceled over fears results were "compromised"

Presidential candidates campaign in Iowa in final weekend before caucuses

An Iowa poll, long considered the most credible in the state and closely watched by political campaigns, will not be released Saturday night as planned. The poll from the Des Moines Register, CNN and Selzer & Co was set to be one of the final Iowa polls ahead of the state's caucus on Monday.

"Today, a respondent raised an issue with the way the survey was administered, which could have compromised the results of the poll. It appears a candidate's name was omitted in at least one interview in which the respondent was asked to name their preferred candidate," Des Moines Register executive editor Carol Hunter said in a statement.

Hunter said the incident appears to be isolated to just one surveyor but could not confirm with certainty and "therefore the partners made the difficult decision to not to move forward with releasing the Iowa poll."

The New York Times first reported the poll was being pulled minutes before the results were scheduled to be announced. The Times reported it was Buttigieg's name that was left off.

Lis Smith, a senior adviser to Pete Buttigieg's campaign, confirmed Saturday night on Twitter that the campaign had received a report from a recipient of the poll that not every candidate was named. The campaign shared this information with the organizers of the poll, who she said "conducted an internal investigation and determined not to release it."

"We applaud CNN and the Des Moines Register for their integrity," Smith said.

The Des Moines Register reported interviewers conducting the poll would read from a list of candidates' names and that the order of names would randomly change. One interviewer had increased the font on their screen, which cut off Buttigieg's name, the Register said, citing a CNN internal investigation. The investigation could not determine how many times it happened or whether other candidates were affected.

"The decision was to protect the integrity of the poll, and so it is the right one," Selzer & Co. President J. Ann Selzer said in a statement to CBS News.

The poll's results were supposed to be released live on CNN live from Des Moines. CNN's vice president of political coverage and political director David Chalian said the release was canceled "out of an abundance of caution."

"It was brought to CNN's attention earlier this evening that somebody who was questioned for the survey raised an issue with the way that their interview was conducted," Chalian said on the network when it was announced the results would not be released. "That means the results of the poll could have been compromised. We weren't able to determine exactly what happened during this person's interview and we don't know if it was an isolated incident."

The last poll from the Des Moines Register, released on January 10, showed Senator Bernie Sanders leading the race with 20% support among likely caucus-goers. Sanders was followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren at 17%, Buttigieg at 16%, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%. All four of those candidates have led the poll at various points this cycle. 

The race in Iowa remains fluid with two days until Iowans head to caucus sites to officially begin the 2020 Democratic Presidential nominating process. A CBS News Battleground Tracker poll last weekend also found a close race with Sanders at 26%, Biden at 25%, Buttigieg at 22%, and Warren at 15%.

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