From “Vote-reporting mess leaves Iowa with no victor on caucus night” by Stephen Collinson at CNN Politics:
Amid anger, chaos and confusion, candidates took to the stage at their caucus headquarters one by one — at a time when the victor would normally be expected to bask in the spoils — to give versions of their stump speeches before heading on to the next contest, in New Hampshire next week…The logjam threatens to rob the eventual winner of the caucuses of some of the early bounce from their victory and is a poor look for a party trying to prove it is up to taking on Trump’s fearsome political machine. It might offer candidates who do worse than expected some cover and is already raising questions about Iowa’s place at the front of the presidential calendar…The campaigns are livid.
So much for the town hall glorification vibes Iowa has milked so enthusiastically in recent years — a much tougher sell going forward. Presidential candidates, their staffs and media have roamed the state for the last year, spending millions of dollars and boosting the state economy enormously. That tradition may now be toast, if future Democratic presidential candidates have their wits about them. Ditto for the Democratic Party.
The top Democratic candidates gave variations of their stump speeches to fill the dead time while the TV networks were caught flat-footed. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the first to seize the opportunity to grab some freebie national publicity. She rose to the occasion and delivered a pretty good speech. The other candidates followed Klobuchar, but struggled to match her energetic delivery.
As Collinson writes, “One candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, made a shrewd move to fill the political vacuum and gave a pseudo-victory speech — grabbing the television spotlight in the absence of results giving other more favored candidates the win…We know there are delays, but we know one thing — we are punching above our weight!” Klobuchar said.”
All in all, whoever did worse than expected in the caucuses won the night, because their loss and their opponent’s victory will be overshadowed by reportage of the Iowa mess, and much of the public will likely shrugg off the tally as tainted by incompetence. Somewhere, former Mayor Bloomberg is glad he didn’t waste time in Iowa.
The explanations for the screw-up, including a knee-jerk quick denial of outside interference, were nearly as lame as the vote and delegate counting process. With benefit of hindsight, the whole process was way too complex, with its metrics for “viability,” “preference cards,” “re-alignment” and “state delegate equivalents” — requiring lots of ‘splaining. Dems should not overlook one obvious lesson: keep it simple.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called it a “Rube Golberg machine.” Esquire’s Charles Pierce said the disaster ought to be the “death knell” for Iowa’s caucus, which is inherently anti-democratic. Even before the vote count mess, former Senator Clare McCaskill criticized the caucus as “designed by Republicans” and discouraging participation. CNN commentator Ronald Brownstein said it shows that “caucuses have outlived their usefulness.”
Republicans, of course, will be piling on with the snarky one-liners. Dems will remind them that they won’t even hold primary elections in many states, denying some of their presidential candidates any consideration at all.
But the unavoidable question for other state Democratic parties this morning: Would it be wise to adopt a hand-count ballot system pretty damn quick?
All of the candidates were surely glad to close their election night speeches with “On to New Hampshire” — and they really meant it.