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Democrats set to face off in New Hampshire debate days ahead of primary

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By Allan Smith  with NBC News Politics
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A journalist works on a laptop in the spin room before the start of the ABC Democratic Debate later in the evening at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. on Feb. 7, 2020.   -   Copyright  Joseph Prezioso AFP - Getty Images

Seven of the top Democratic presidential primary contenders are set to square off Friday in a New Hampshire primary debate just days before the state holds its crucial first-in-the-nation primary vote.

On stage will be former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. The debate is hosted by ABC News and Apple News and is being held at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

Recent polling shows Sanders ahead in the state, followed closely by Buttigieg. Warren and Biden are further back and tied for third, according to the RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls. The primary is Tuesday.

The debate, expected to run about three hours, comes after days of chaos stemming from Iowa caucus confusion as results were delayed after what organizers said was a problem with a new smartphone app built to report the totals. The state party said problems with reporting those results were partly due to "coding issues" with the app.

Although the Iowa Democratic Party has now reported 100 percent of the total, an NBC News Decision Desk review of the data found that the totals are rife with potential errors and inconsistencies that could affect the outcome of the election, and the Democratic National Committee has called for a recanvassing. As it stands, Buttigieg was reported to have finished with 26.2 percent of the state delegate equivalents while Sanders finished with 26.1 percent.

Both candidates have claimed victory.

While Buttigieg, fresh off a strong performance in the state, is likely to face incoming fire from his Democratic rivalsin Friday's debate, the contest carries added weight for candidates like Biden, Warren and others who seek a strong New Hampshire finish in order to build momentum heading into Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states over the coming weeks.

The face-off is also the first time the Democratic candidates have taken to the debate stage since President Donald Trump, who they are all running to unseat, was acquitted on impeachment charges in the Senate. Three of the candidates on Friday's stage voted to convict Trump on both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges.