‘A Complete Mess’: Still No Results from Iowa Caucus
Democratic candidates tried to spin the chaotic situation at the Iowa caucuses, and campaigned in New Hampshire as they awaited the results.
“Anybody with an S to Z last name —” “L to R! L to R!” “Anybody want a sign?” “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” [whistle] “Seven, eight —” “Forty!” “Fifty-five, 56, 57, 58, 59 —” “There is no name on it.” “I need these guys right here. I need his name and his number.” “Could you verify your last name and address for me?” “O.K., I’m going to write Joe Biden for first preference. That’s your first preference, correct?” “We’re counting all of ours.” “Yeah, we’re just making sure everything’s signed.” “O.K., good.” “So we’re going to need each representative to sign off on here.” “So we don’t know all the results, but we know by the time it’s all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation. By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.” “And when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa.” “Thank you so much. So listen, it is too close to call. So I’m just going to tell you what I do know.” “You won!” “We don’t know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are.”
Democratic candidates tried to spin the chaotic situation at the Iowa caucuses, and campaigned in New Hampshire as they awaited the results.CreditCredit…Mark Makela for The New York Times
The Iowa Democratic Party will begin releasing results from the caucuses at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The party blamed a “coding issue” in the app used to tabulate results.
A frustrated pack of Democratic presidential candidates sought to turn the mood of chaos to their own advantage Tuesday morning as they barreled toward the next nominating contest, in New Hampshire. And Michael R. Bloomberg, the multibillionaire former New York City mayor, is trying to capitalize by doubling his spending on television commercials.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., among others, have events in New Hampshire today.
Unexplained inconsistencies in results, heated conference calls and firm denials of hacking: Read more about how the Iowa caucuses melted down.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Iowa Democratic Party says it will begin releasing results this afternoon.
The Iowa Democratic Party will begin to release results from Monday’s caucuses at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, its chairman, Troy Price, told the Democratic campaigns in a conference call.
Mr. Price told the campaigns that “the majority” of results the party had in hand would be made public later Tuesday, but he dodged questions from the campaigns about how much would be released and when final totals would become available.
“I don’t want to put a number on it but I can tell you it’s going to be more than 50 percent,” he said.
Officials on the call said the party was trying to verify results using paper records collected from each precinct and that it had dispatched staff members to collect them around the state.
The call quickly turned combative, as campaign representatives pressed the party officials about when results would be released and why it was taking so long.
“What do you have to back up these results?” one campaign representative asked.
“We have always said we have a paper trail in the process,” Mr. Price replied. “This is what we would have done on caucus night,” he added, of releasing verified results, as they have them.
Jeff Weaver, a senior aide to Mr. Sanders, praised the officials on the call and noted, “You do have a paper trail.” He warned rival campaigns against “discrediting the party,” a veiled reference to the Biden campaign, which had objected earlier in the call to the process.
“I do want to urge people in the interest of not discrediting the party, that folks who are just trying to delay the return of this because of their relative positioning in the results, last night, I think that’s a bit disingenuous,” Mr. Weaver said. “Those results should be rolled out as we get them.” But how long the process could take was not answered.
“Today, tomorrow, the next day, a week, a month?” said Jesse Harris, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden in Iowa, pressing the party. “We’re continuing to work through our process and just as soon as we can,” Mr. Price replied.
Bloomberg plans to double his ad spending after the Iowa chaos.
Mr. Bloomberg at a campaign event in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign moved on Tuesday to exploit the chaotic outcome of the Iowa caucuses, authorizing his campaign team to double his spending on television commercials in every market where he is currently advertising and expand his campaign’s field staff to more than two thousand people, strategists involved in the conversations said.
The Bloomberg campaign has been trying to chart an unprecedented route to the Democratic nomination, skipping the first four contests in February but aggressively contesting the array of larger states that begin voting in March. From the outset, Mr. Bloomberg’s advisers believed the strategy would only have a chance of working if another moderate candidate — most likely former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — failed to emerge from February with a decisive upper hand in the race.
In an interview on Monday in Compton, Calif., Mr. Bloomberg was unusually blunt about his campaign spending strategy and his intent to seek advantages while his rivals toiled in the four early states, which have relatively few delegates needed to win the nomination.
“It’s much more efficient to go to the big states, to go to the swing states,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “The others chose to compete in the first four. And nobody makes them do it, they wanted to do it. I think part of it is because the conventional wisdom is ‘Oh you can’t possibly win without them.’”
Later, he added: “Those are old rules.”
Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor whose campaign is fueled by a multibillion-dollar personal fortune, conferred with advisers on Tuesday morning about the muddled results in Iowa. Encouraged by the murky outcome, Mr. Bloomberg authorized his campaign team to undertake the expansion in advertising and staff.
His campaign also released a new advertisement scheduled to be aired nationally Tuesday night, when President Trump is set to deliver his State of the Union address. The spot focuses on criticism of Mr. Trump, warning of a nation “divided by an angry, out-of-control president” and a White House “beset by lies, chaos and corruption.”
The advertisement tries to portray Mr. Bloomberg as the candidate who is best equipped to beat Mr. Trump in November.
The party says problems reporting data were caused by a ‘coding issue.’
The Iowa Democratic Party said Tuesday that there were delays in announcing the results from the precincts because the new app that it planned to use for its caucus results reported only partial data.
“As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” Mr. Price said. “While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed.”
Delays amounted to ‘a systemwide disaster,’ former party chair says.
Sean Bagniewski had seen the problems coming.
It wasn’t so much that the new app that the Iowa Democratic Party had planned to use to report its caucus results didn’t work. It was that people were struggling to even log in or download it in the first place. After all, there had never been any app-specific training for this many precinct chairs.
So last Thursday Mr. Bagniewski, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, Iowa’s most populous, decided to scrap the app entirely, instructing his precinct chairs to simply call in the caucus results as they had always done.
The only problem was, when the time came during Monday’s caucuses, those precinct chairs could not connect with party leaders via phone. Mr. Bagniewski instructed his executive director to take pictures of the results with her smartphone and drive over to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters to deliver them in person. She was turned away without explanation, he said.
It was a surreal opening act for the 2020 campaign that included unexplained “inconsistencies” in results that were not released to the public, heated conference calls with campaigns that were hung up on by the state party, firm denials of any kind of hacking and a presidential primary left in a strange state of almost suspended animation.
“A systemwide disaster,” said Derek Eadon, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairman.
Amid the chaos and confusion, there were conflicting candidate speeches declaring various degrees of victory, as Mr. Sanders’s campaign released its own set of favorable partial results, and multiple campaigns hoped that the mess would not lessen the eventual impact of what they said appeared to be a disappointing first test for Mr. Biden.
‘We’re in good shape,’ Sanders says. ‘We’re not declaring victory.’
DES MOINES — In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters aboard his charter plane before it took off for New Hampshire, Mr. Sanders denounced the Iowa Democratic Party for not being able to report caucus results as his campaign released internal numbers that showed him winning the state on all metrics.
“I think we should all be disappointed in the inability of the party to come up with timely results,” he said. “But we are not casting aspersions on the votes that are being counted.”
“This is not a good thing,” he added. “This is not a good night for democracy.”
At the same time, his campaign released its internal results, with 60 percent of precincts counted, that it said showed Mr. Sanders winning the first head count, with 29.08 percent, followed by Mr. Buttigieg with 21.63 percent, Ms. Warren with 19.51 percent, Ms. Klobuchar with 12.27 percent and Mr. Biden with 12.04 percent.
After realignment, his campaign said, Mr. Sanders had 29.4 percent, followed by Mr. Buttigieg at 24.87 percent, Ms. Warren at 20.65 percent, Mr. Biden at 12.92 percent and Ms. Klobuchar at 11.18 percent.
Still, Mr. Sanders stopped short of saying he had won, saying only that based on that information, “We’re in pretty good shape.”
“We’re not declaring victory,” he said.
Asked what his reaction was to Mr. Buttigieg declaring victory on Monday night, before any results were reported, Mr. Sanders was dismissive.
“I don’t know how anybody declares victory before you have official statement as to election results,” he said.
Mr. Sanders also said attempts by the Biden campaign to discredit the results were “unfair.”
Warren urges the Iowa Democratic Party to ‘get it together.’
KEENE, N.H. — Ms. Warren of Massachusetts called on the Iowa Democratic Party to “get it together,” saying the reporting errors that upended caucus results threatened to damage trust in the Democratic process.
Speaking to reporters after an event in Keene, her first in New Hampshire after landing at 4 a.m., Ms. Warren said reports that the Iowa Democratic Party planned to release half of the caucus results later this afternoon made little sense.
“I just don’t understand what that means to release half of the data,” she said. “So, I think they ought to get it together and release all of the data.”
Ms. Warren told the audience that the results showed a close race atop the Iowa field between her, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg. Her campaign has sought to frame the caucus results — however unclear — as a bad night for Mr. Biden.
Asked if voters will be able to trust results, Ms. Warren replied, “I hope they’ll be able to.” At the same time, her campaign sent an email to supporters framing the results as a good night for them amid a tumultuous time for democracy.
“I know there are reasons to feel frustrated and discouraged,” it read. “Yesterday we had a bumpy democratic process. Tonight a lawless president will deliver his State of the Union. Tomorrow Republicans in the Senate will likely declare that their loyalty is to Donald Trump rather than our Constitution and the rule of law.”
Trump revels in caucus dysfunction.
As Democrats struggled to count the votes in the opening presidential nominating contest, the one person clearly rejoicing was the man they hope to evict from the White House.
“The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster,” President Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning as the Iowa results remained unknown. “Nothing works, just like they ran the Country. Remember the 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare Website, that should have cost 2% of that. The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump.’”
But Mr. Trump, who won the Republican caucuses in Iowa handily, rejected suggestions that the breakdown in counting should cause the state to lose its status as the first stop in the presidential nomination process.
“It is not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault,” he wrote. “As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is. Important tradition!”
The app used to tabulate votes is said to have been inadequately tested.
The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party.
The party decided to use the app only after another proposal for reporting votes — which entailed having caucus participants call in their votes over the phone — was abandoned, on the advice of Democratic National Committee officials, according to David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election integrity organization.
The app was built by Shadow Inc., a for-profit technology company that is also used by the Nevada Democratic Party, the next state to hold a caucus, as well as by multiple presidential campaigns.
The secrecy around the app this year came from the Iowa Democratic Party, which asked that even its name be withheld from the public. According to a person familiar with the app, its creators had repeatedly questioned the need to keep it secret, especially from the Iowa precincts where it would be used.
That person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had agreed not to discuss details of the app, said that there were concerns that the app would malfunction in areas with poor connectivity, or because of high bandwidth use, such as when many people tried to use it at the same time.
NASHUA, N.H. — Fresh off an overnight flight from Des Moines, Mr. Buttigieg met the mayor of Nashua, Jim Donchess, for a coffee at the Riverwalk Café downtown.
“You did a great job last night on your speech,” Mr. Donchess said, as he greeted Mr. Buttigieg on a sidewalk outside of the coffee shop.
“Thanks,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Felt good.”
As the two men walked down the sidewalk, Mr. Buttigieg told the Nashua mayor that it was “frustrating” to not have good results, but said “you can’t deny” that he had had a strong night.
Mr. Donchess, a four-term mayor, announced his endorsement of Mr. Buttigieg this morning, though said he had been considering it for some time and was not influenced by the reports of a strong finish in Iowa.
Mr. Buttigieg lingered in the coffee shop for about 10 minutes, sitting down with three voters to talk about local issues. He ignored questions from reporters about whether his speech last night in Iowa, seemingly declaring victory absent any official results, was premature.
Voters here — both those who said they were undecided and those who said they would vote for Mr. Buttigieg — offered a collective shrug at the former mayor’s decision to declare victory in the absence of any official results.
Asked if it was appropriate for Mr. Buttigieg to have suggested he had won, Ben Gayman, an undecided voter from Manchester, did not hesitate.
“Of course,” he said. “They all did.”
Why did Iowa make the caucuses so complicated?
A lot of reasons contributed to Monday night’s events, chiefly a breakdown of the process by which caucus leaders were supposed to report results to the Iowa Democratic Party.
But one factor was baked into that process from almost the moment the caucuses ended four years ago.
Historically, the party had focused on highlighting only one caucus result: the number of delegates each candidate had earned for the state convention. The winner of the Iowa caucuses was the person who earned the most state delegates, which translate into national delegates, which determine the nomination. This year, however, the state party chose to release four results from the caucuses.
That’s because in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton edged out Mr. Sanders in the state delegate count by a quarter of a percentage point, earning roughly 700 to Mr. Sanders’s 697. That meant 23 national delegates for Mrs. Clinton and 21 for Mr. Sanders — an inconsequential difference between the two rivals.
Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign fought for an audit in Iowa — comparing the reported results with the papers on which caucus leaders had recorded voters’ preferences — and accused the state Democratic Party of a lack of transparency.
Largely because of Mr. Sanders’s objections, the party decided to release additional numbers in 2020 that it had always logged but never made public: the number of supporters each candidate had in the first round of voting and the number he or she had in the second round, after nonviable candidates were eliminated and caucusgoers realigned.
The idea was that all this data would provide a fuller picture of each candidate’s strength. But it also made reporting the results more complicated. Read more here.
Iowa’s senators and governors defend the state’s role in nominating process.
In a joint statement released Tuesday morning, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa and the state’s governor, Kim Reynolds, defended the Iowa caucuses, saying they were confident the results would ultimately be tallied.
“Iowa’s unique role encourages a grass-roots nominating process that empowers everyday Americans, not Washington insiders or powerful billionaires,” they said. “The face-to-face retail politics nature of Iowa’s caucus system also encourages dialogue between candidates and voters that makes our presidential candidates accountable for the positions they take and the records they hold.”
They also defended the state’s position at the start of the nominating calendar.
“Iowa’s large population of independent voters and its practice of careful deliberation contributes greatly to the national presidential primary and makes it the ideal state to kick off the nominating process,” they said. “Iowans and all Americans should know we have complete confidence that every last vote will be counted and every last voice will be heard.”
Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Peter Baker, Alexander Burns, Nick Corasaniti, Sydney Ember, Reid J. Epstein, Sheera Frenkel, Shane Goldmacher, Christine Hauser, Astead W. Herndon, Nicole Perlroth, Jonathan Martin, Jennifer Medina and Matt Stevens.
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