Iowa Democratic vote-reporting meltdown hands opening to Trump

Story County Precinct 1-1 secretary Shawn Sebastian talked to CNN and explained the frustrations he was feeling waiting to report results of the Iowa caucus vote in his precinct.

Posted: Feb 4, 2020 4:45 AM
Updated: Feb 4, 2020 6:45 AM


The Democratic 2020 crusade to oust President Donald Trump could not have got off to a more disastrous and embarrassing start.

The party couldn't even deliver a first-in-the-nation election night winner after a vote-reporting debacle in Iowa — where candidates spent months and millions of dollars vying for a glittering opening prize in their nominating duel.

'Iowa, you have shocked the nation,' said former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

It was a bold attempt to declare victory in the absence of a result, but the 38-year-old inadvertently cast an ironic judgment on a political train wreck.

The big Hawkeye State miss will be agonizing for whoever comes out on top but for any candidates who under performed -- perhaps former Vice President Joe Biden -- it might turn into a priceless lifeline.

The caucus nightmare also played right into the hands of a President spoiling for months to brand his rivals as weak, disorganized and even worse — plotting to rig the results to hand its crown to an establishment favorite. There's little doubt that Trump, who consistently erodes distrust in institutions and governing systems, will weaponize such a narrative if it looks like he will lose in November.

The President pounced on the confusion early Tuesday morning.

'The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country,' he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Trump operatives are already spinning conspiracy theories and disinformation about what the Iowa Democratic Party said were 'inconsistencies' in its results. Their aim is to create a narrative that tars the eventual nominee as illegitimate. And on the eve of his State of the Union address and two days before he's set to be acquitted in his impeachment trial, things cannot have worked out better for the President.

'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?' Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said, gleefully wringing every last drop of political advantage out of the Democratic blushes.

It could be that after the countless twists of the campaign and changes of fortune, Monday's snafu -- apparently by a vote-reporting app -- will be a distant memory by November, especially if one of the candidates turns Trump into a one-term president. Democrats will get the last laugh then.

But there must also be questions about whether the Iowa mess is isolated -- or augurs a party ill-equipped in the states to take on Trump's formidable turnout machine, which is being built with his massive campaign war chest. And the importance of Iowa in the process of choosing a president magnifies the cost of its terrible night on Monday.

Democratic party officials are now expecting results to be announced later on Tuesday, many hours after the caucuses that drew thousands of people to more than 1,600 caucus sites all over the state and more at satellite caucuses stretching as far as Europe.

Was Buttigieg robbed?

Several campaigns were releasing their own data on the results, a process that is likely to only add to the confusion and devalue the eventual official result when it comes. It's not going to do much for the party unity that will be needed to beat Trump, which is already worrying party Democratic leaders.

And that final tally is not going to matter as much anymore anyway. There will be no Iowa victory parties before delirious Hawkeye State crowds in the blaze of on-the-night TV coverage.

The candidates have all skipped on to New Hampshire — meaning that when the vote counting does eventually produce a winner, the victor will be deprived of an often valuable Iowa bounce in polling and fundraising.

That's especially bad news for Buttigieg — who declared victory at well after midnight East Coast time, in a rousing speech that is now likely to become one of history's footnotes.

'By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious,' the Indianan said.

If Buttigieg did in fact pull out the win he claimed, he will be the victim of one of the worst robberies in modern political history. It's not a stretch to say that a win would've compared with the seminal Barack Obama triumph in 2008 that sent the then-first-term senator on the road to the White House.

But the mix-up could also hurt Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also may have been heading for a strong night and will now be deprived of the media and fundraising buzz he could have expected.

Nevertheless, Sanders seemed happy his performance, predicting he was going to do 'very, very well.'

If Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was destined to fall behind Sanders in Iowa, she'll get another chance to wrestle for the soul of the party's most liberal activists in New Hampshire.

But Biden, who appeared to be heading for a rough outing, may have caught the biggest break.

In a telltale sign that he performed below expectations, Biden's team raised doubts about the 'integrity' of the caucuses -- showing its keenness to disregard any result that emerges later in the day on Tuesday.

Even if he now loses in New Hampshire and Nevada, Biden could pull off a win in his firewall state of South Carolina at the end of the month and essentially argue that the pre-Super Tuesday contests were a wash.

Perhaps the shrewdest move in the chaos of Monday night came from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who emerged on stage first and won a ticket out of Iowa that many observers doubted she could claim.

'We know there are delays, but we know one thing -- we are punching above our weight!' she said.

A sad day for Iowans

The vote counting mess was also an insult to the voters of Iowa, including Democratic activists who have spent months running the rule over a record party field and will now get a reduced payoff for their diligence.

Volunteers across the state gave up their time to mount the caucuses, and to canvass for candidates and their efforts will now be stained by an asterisk.

Given that many Democratic opinion formers have complained about the overwhelmingly white state's preeminence in a party that has an increasingly diverse racial coalition, Monday's epic fail cannot have come at a worse time.

Many campaigns have complained about the creaky caucus system -- not just in this cycle -- partly because it doesn't involve a secret ballot and is prone to vote-counting problems given its idiosyncracies.

Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum -- who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 but lost a knock-on advantage after it was initially declared Mitt Romney was the winner -- said on CNN that it was now vital for state officials to clear up any doubts about the probity of the caucuses.

One Iowa Democratic luminary called on everyone in Iowa politics and the media to take a deep cleansing breath, arguing that getting the final vote tally correct was now what mattered.

'Of course, Iowa Dems are taking their time to make sure the results reported are accurate. If there's a delay of several hours, to make sure the results are accurate, is that so bad?,' former state party chair Gordon Fischer told CNN's Gloria Borger.

'We live in a different age, an age of super speed! Internet! Social media! People simply aren't used to waiting for anything anymore. Should the Iowa Caucuses remain first-in-the-nation? Absolutely, no question, without a doubt.'

Still, the fast-moving electoral calendar waits for no one.

Candidates had a full slate of events on New Hampshire on Tuesday. And despite Iowa's bid to make amends, the Granite State may now become the de-facto opening night of the Democratic race in next week's primary.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 445047

Reported Deaths: 5955
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin924911470
Ramsey39703735
Dakota32788331
Anoka30811360
Washington20004225
Stearns17775185
St. Louis13546240
Scott1189996
Wright11548102
Olmsted1035775
Sherburne815765
Carver691436
Clay648478
Rice600166
Kandiyohi552871
Blue Earth538033
Crow Wing479673
Otter Tail453464
Chisago449732
Benton416785
Winona386246
Douglas372466
Nobles366746
Mower362328
Goodhue343657
Polk327756
McLeod323144
Morrison310043
Beltrami308746
Lyon299835
Itasca282643
Becker281738
Isanti281141
Carlton278143
Steele27119
Pine265113
Freeborn241320
Todd230929
Nicollet223336
Brown213734
Mille Lacs212845
Le Sueur208515
Cass206123
Meeker198533
Waseca188816
Martin169126
Wabasha16883
Roseau165316
Hubbard148338
Redwood139227
Renville136539
Houston135313
Dodge13304
Chippewa130832
Cottonwood126518
Fillmore12215
Wadena119416
Rock109512
Sibley10797
Aitkin107133
Watonwan10618
Faribault104615
Pennington97715
Kanabec97218
Pipestone93823
Yellow Medicine93314
Murray8655
Jackson85010
Swift83018
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6978
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65616
Lake62915
Wilkin6229
Koochiching59010
Lincoln4821
Big Stone4543
Unassigned43468
Grant4257
Norman4228
Mahnomen4087
Kittson37019
Red Lake3164
Traverse2473
Lake of the Woods1801
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 303065

Reported Deaths: 4267
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45335447
Linn17673274
Scott15356163
Black Hawk13648236
Woodbury12945175
Johnson1202149
Dubuque11300149
Pottawattamie8934112
Dallas881171
Story863434
Webster467471
Cerro Gordo462968
Sioux453356
Clinton448361
Warren437538
Marshall425561
Buena Vista391529
Muscatine386177
Des Moines380641
Plymouth348868
Wapello340898
Jasper319658
Lee313530
Marion301752
Jones269649
Henry263230
Carroll253034
Bremer242048
Crawford228122
Boone216217
Washington214231
Benton208544
Jackson190831
Mahaska190736
Tama185657
Dickinson184226
Delaware172236
Kossuth170543
Clay166019
Wright162724
Fayette159522
Buchanan158023
Hamilton157829
Winneshiek154819
Harrison154462
Hardin153929
Cedar151419
Clayton150748
Butler146424
Page143715
Cherokee138127
Floyd137936
Mills136016
Lyon133632
Poweshiek132324
Hancock128824
Allamakee126827
Iowa122822
Calhoun12209
Grundy120026
Jefferson119524
Madison11869
Winnebago118229
Mitchell115634
Louisa114130
Cass112541
Chickasaw110512
Emmet110231
Sac110215
Appanoose109638
Union108122
Humboldt104219
Guthrie102224
Shelby101326
Franklin101218
Unassigned9210
Palo Alto9019
Keokuk84325
Montgomery84022
Howard82519
Monroe80518
Clarke7817
Pocahontas77211
Ida73830
Greene6887
Davis68721
Adair68620
Lucas6468
Osceola6349
Monona63316
Worth5983
Taylor5919
Fremont5036
Van Buren49412
Decatur4784
Ringgold4269
Wayne41421
Audubon4108
Adams2953
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 17°
Mason City
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 16°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 16°
Feels Like: 16°
Austin
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 17°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 16°
A big temperature swing is on the way
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Saturday's local highlights and scores

Image

John Marshall ready for 2021

Image

Is the City of Rochester paying men and women equally?

Image

LWVMN asks for "truth and consequences" for state lawmakers

Image

Sports Overtime Part 2

Image

Sports Overtime Part 1

Image

Plans for polar plunge

Image

Equal work and equal pay.

Image

Aaron's Friday Night Forecast

Image

Mega Millions jackpot soars to $750 million

Community Events