The Iowa Caucus Calamity: What Both Sides Are Saying

Francis Lanzano Contributor
The Iowa Caucus Calamity: What Both Sides Are Saying
Read Time: approx. 4:21

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Tag This: After more than a year of campaigning, the first votes of the 2020 Democratic presidential race were cast last night in Iowa. Heading into the night former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders were virtually tied for first in state polls, followed by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

What you need to know: the most important ramification is the narrative. As Vox’s Dylan Scott says it’s about “who comes out of the caucuses looking like a winner, rather than who wins outright.” 

What’s confusing is that this year there will be three sets of numbers released from the caucuses, which could scramble the storyline. Therefore, if there isn’t one clear winner the “bounce” it normally gives the winner could be less impactful than in years past, as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out. 

To make it even more confusing, the Iowa caucuses were thrown into chaos late Monday after the state Democratic Party said it found “inconsistencies,” delaying results and causing widespread confusion across the state. 

State of Play: The Iowa Democratic Party said early Tuesday that it would release the results of the Iowa caucuses later Tuesday after “manually verifying all precinct results.” Cover Kings: The New York Post had the best cover to sum up the delay. Here’s how the delay is playing out on both sides of the political spectrum:

The Rare Bipartisan Box: In general, both right and left-leaning outlets denounced the delay in Iowa. They saw the botched reporting as further proof for why the caucus model may be antiquated, why it may dent the public’s faith in the fairness of the process, and ultimately just a brutal way to officially kick off the election year.
On The LeftOn The Right
Kathryn Watson and Melissa Quinn of CBS News pointed out how “one precinct captain who was trying to report his results was on hold for an hour and had apparently just gotten through to the IDP — with CNN listening as he was about to report his results — when the party hung up on him on live television.” Furthermore, it wasn’t an isolated incident. “I was on hold for 40 minutes at my precinct. I gave up and hung up and returned to our HQ,” said Black Hawk County Vice Chair Nate Guber. In essence, “chaos” was the word they used to sum up the delayed results coming out of Iowa. They also noted how Republicans wasted no time seizing on the chaos. See the box to the right.GOP Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina used the confusion to take aim at Democrats’ policy positions. “Folks—this is the party that wants to run your healthcare, control your employment, decide what kind of car you can drive, and more,” he tweeted. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale added: “Democrats are stewing in a caucus mess of their own creation with the sloppiest train wreck in history. It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process. And these are the people who want to run our entire health care system? Tonight President Trump posted a record performance in the well-run GOP Iowa caucuses with record turnout for an incumbent.”
Frank Bruni of the New York Times titled his piece: “Iowa’s Unholy Mess”, saying “The stakes are too high to begin like this.” Bruni continues to say that “to excite the most Americans possible and have its best chance of toppling President Trump, the Democratic Party needs a sorting of candidates that’s coherent, a system that inspires faith, a process that makes participants feel respected and heard… What Iowa provided on Monday night was a baffling spectacle resistant to any quick, definitive verdict.”Jim Geraghty of the National Review echos Bruni’s sentiment to the left, leading with “Down With the Iowa Caucuses!” arguing that they “are a terrible way to pick a nominee. There is no secret ballot, so every nosy neighbor and busybody who prefers another candidate knows who you’re supporting. There is no access for those who work nights or need babysitters… One group of supporters of unviable candidates decided to back Cory Booker, who quit the race on January 13… And now, apparently, the results are being held up for ‘quality checks.’ Primaries are simple!”
Zack Beauchamp of Vox News pointed out that “As early as 8:48 pm Eastern time, the New York Times was already reporting that problems with the app were giving rise to conspiracy theories.” “One of the risks of introducing apps like this, and new technology more generally, into elections, is that problems occur, as they inevitably do,” Matt Blaze, a professor of computer science and law at Georgetown University, told the Times. “People might see this as evidence that the whole system is rigged.” Beauchamp continues to point out that things “only got worse as the night went on. A viral tweet suggested, without evidence, that the app was being used to somehow rig the process against Bernie Sanders.”Gregg Re and Allie Raffa of Fox News also picked up the idea of the caucuses being “rigged” as the “Trump campaign mocked the delay on Twitter, even as it celebrated the huge crowds at GOP caucuses in the state that showed up to vote for the president. “Quality control = rigged?” asked Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale. Re and Raffa also noted that “In social media posts, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had boasted that it had been ‘preparing’ for the Iowa process ‘for three years’ to make the primary process ‘the most transparent’ ever.”
Jeffrey Toobin of CNN states simply that “The Iowa caucuses are an embarrassment” adding that “Maybe the fiasco of the late reporting results from the Iowa caucus this year will have a positive legacy — the end of the caucus process and the invitation to another state to start the delegate selection process. The caucuses are an embarrassment to the Democratic Party and the United States. This is no way to pick a nominee… One of the worst reasons to do anything is … that’s the way we’ve always done it. That’s pretty much the only justification for continuing to have (a) a caucus (b) in Iowa. It’s time for a change — in the process and in the location.”Brad Polumbo of the Washington Examiner wrote that the “Iowa caucus results show President Trump is a big winner” pointing out that although the “main focus on Monday night was the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, there were actually also Republican caucuses as well.” Polumbo continues to say that “The Republican base is fully, completely in lockstep with Trump… because Trump has stacked the courts with strong conservative judges, passed landmark criminal justice reform, beat the Democrats’ impeachment charges, and seems to be soaring toward reelection in 2020.”