Caucus Confusion Was a Disaster for Democrats

Iowa officials hope to release results Tuesday
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2020 4:43 AM CST
Updated Feb 4, 2020 6:50 AM CST
Caucus Confusion Was a Disaster for Democrats
Bernie Sanders arrives to speak to supporters at a caucus night campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

With angry candidates, a confused public, and a gloating Trump campaign, the Democratic Party's effort to recapture the White House is not off to the most promising start. Hours after the Iowa caucuses ended Monday night, with candidates and the public eager for news, party officials said results were delayed due to "inconsistencies" in the results from precincts. At around 1am, Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said the results would not be available until later Tuesday, the New York Times reports. Some of the candidates had already made their speeches and departed for New Hampshire. More:

  • Campaigns left in the dark. Campaigns complained they had been told "literally nothing" by party officials about the reasons for the delay, the Hill reports. A lawyer for Joe Biden's campaign wrote to state party officials Monday night calling for the results to be withheld until they provide "explanations and relevant information regarding the methods of quality control." Sources tell the Times that party officials hung up on campaign reps who wanted to know when the results would be available.
  • An app to blame? The problem appears to have been a mobile app for reporting results from Iowa's 1,700 caucus meetings, the AP reports. Caucus organizers say there were multiple glitches with the app—which was apparently largely untested—and when they tried to phone in the results to party headquarters, there was nobody answering. In some cases, reporting results took hours. The Biden campaign lawyer said both the app and the reporting hotline experienced "acute failures."
  • Big change, big problems. This was the first—and probably last—time the party tried to report data from the first and second "alignments" of caucusgoers as well as delegate totals. Party rep Mandy McClure said officials had to verify data after they "found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results." "In addition to the tech systems being used to tabulate results, we are also using photos of results and a paper trail to validate that all results match and ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report," she said.

  • Candidates release their own results. By 2am, some candidates decided to release their own results instead of waiting, the Washington Post reports. Pete Buttigieg's campaign claimed victory, with "viability" in 83% of precincts, while Bernie Sanders' campaign said he had performed best in the precincts they had data for. A spokesman for Elizabeth Warren's campaign said the race was "very close" between her, Sanders, and Buttigieg, with Biden a "distant fourth."
  • The last Iowa caucus? Some analysts are already writing obituaries for the Iowa caucuses, or at least their first-in-the-nation status. Tim Alberta at Politico says the failure to deliver caucus results is "inexcusable," especially since the party had four years to prepare. "Iowa Democrats didn’t just fail in their responsibility. They failed spectacularly," he writes. "They failed in such complete and humiliating fashion that no one will remember who won the 2020 caucuses, only that Iowa lost."
  • "One of the worst robberies." If the late results show Buttigieg really did win, his failure to have a big moment and an "Iowa bounce" makes him the victim of "one of the worst robberies in modern political history," writes Stephen Collinson at CNN. The meltdown could also hurt Sanders, but Biden, "who appeared to be heading for a rough outing, may have caught the biggest break," he writes.
  • Trump campaign glee. Trump campaign officials did not disguise their glee at the PR disaster for Democrats. the Guardian reports. "Democrats are stewing in a caucus mess of their own creation with the sloppiest train wreck in history," said Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale. "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?"
(More Iowa caucuses stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.