No matter who won, Iowa is lost


Daniel Bethke

Caucus-goers display their support for a particular candidate at the Democratic Party 2020 Caucus in Larchwood, Iowa.

Daniel Bethke, Perspectives Editor

On Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, Iowa voters were supposed to head to their designated precinct location and caucus for a particular candidate, extending the tradition of Iowa’s first-of-the-nation status.

At this rate, however, it looks like Iowa’s full and accurate results for the Democratic caucus might not be released for much more time to come. Part of the reason is because of the abundant inaccuracies made by the Iowa Democratic Party. Some of these might be unintentional mishaps, whereas others might be malicious attempts to undermine certain candidates.

Initially, the Iowa Democratic Party released a statement claiming that they were performing ‘quality checks’ in Iowa due to inconsistencies in the reporting of results. These issues stemmed from errors in the app they used to report caucus results. Strangely enough, this app, which was developed by Shadow, Inc., did not even bother to go through the process of stress-testing the app before usage. This negligence left the app highly susceptible to outside interference. Furthermore, Federal Election Commission data shows that Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg contributed $42,500 to Shadow, Inc. in July, for “Software Rights and Subscriptions.” What makes this even more strange and problematic is the fact that, when zero percent of the vote was in, Buttigieg tweeted, “By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.” Soon thereafter, he echoed these sentiments in what many interpreted as a victory speech. This dynamic is not normal; it is not normal for an app to which a candidate donated lots of money to ‘just happen to accidentally’ crash when it was needed most.

All these circumstances are very strange, but, even stranger, at this point, results were still not released at all. In response to this, the Bernie Sanders campaign released its own internal Iowa data from their precinct captains. The Sanders campaign, remembering how the DNC was unfairly biased against his candidacy in 2016 (whereby the DNC was effectively a part of the Clinton campaign), anticipated similar mishaps would occur and trained volunteers for such incidents specifically. This internal data showed Sanders leading with 29.7% of the vote, closely followed by Buttigieg, then Warren and then Biden at a distant fourth. These results, especially involving Biden’s underperformance when compared to prior polling, were somewhat confirmed by the first batch of results.

Next, on Tuesday, the Iowa Democratic Party released only 62% of the vote. Why specifically 62%? The honest answer remains to be seen. They then incrementally released 71, 97 and 99.5 (which they rounded to 100) percent. The latter of these releases included nearly all precincts but essentially none of the satellite caucus sites. For a group that clearly had the entirety of their results, the order in which they were released was… strange, to say the least. Zero transparency or reasoning was provided as to why this was the case. Yet, to most, the reasoning behind these decisions to postpone release is obvious: Sanders won. Specifically, Sanders won and the Democratic establishment did not want this to be seen. 

According to the Iowa Democratic Party’s official results, Sanders garnered 6,114 more votes than the second place winner (Buttigieg) in the first caucus alignment. In the second alignment, Sanders’ margin changed to 2,631. Despite him getting the most votes by decent margins in both and all alignments, Sanders received only 562 state delegate equivalents, whereas Buttigieg got 564. How could that happen? 

These uncanny results stem from the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2020 Caucus Guide, which states that, in cases of ties, “a coin toss shall determine which group is awarded the addition.” However, much of the time, these coin flips were frivolous, unnecessary or biased. There are several instances of people changing the position of the coin after looking at it, to give certain candidates, typically Buttigieg, another delegate. Often times, these flips happen when they are not needed— in one case, Buttigieg’s group had 66 people whereas Sanders’ had 101. Despite this massive gap (nearly double), both ended up tied at four delegates each after the coin toss. This dynamic never happens in reverse order, nor does it ever happen in favor of Sanders.

Since Iowa is supposed to be a momentum and narrative-building state, the winner is guaranteed a boost in the polls because of inevitable positive press coverage that in turn documents their win. As RealClearPolitics has shown, Buttigieg actually benefited from Iowa and got a 7 point bump in the polling average. This is because of the incredibly convenient order in which results were released. Each time the results slowly trickled in, they showed Buttigieg narrowly in the lead. These selective releases, coupled with Buttigieg claiming victory the day prior, allowed him to effectively get his ‘victory lap’ in terms of media reporting. Despite Buttigieg having lost Iowa, the Iowa Democratic Party managed to find a way to undermine Sanders’ post-caucus news coverage and make it seem like Buttigieg won, so that, by the time it became clear Sanders actually won, the American people already were exhausted with the Iowa debacle and moved on to New Hampshire. In this way, the Iowa Democratic Party effectively denied Sanders the jump in the polls that Buttigieg received.

But is their intent really that malicious, or is this entirely coincidental? We must recall that, as Forbes noted, Buttigieg has at least 40 billionaire donors. He represents their interests; in fact, The New York Times reported that Buttigieg has attended numerous closed-door fundraisers or meetings of party elites, the purpose of which was specifically to try and find a way of stopping Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination. Not only is this the candidate who contributed massively to the company that designed the caucus app, but this bad actor is also working with other Democrats to find ways to stop Sanders from winning the nomination, including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. 

In 2016, WikiLeaks discovered the extent of influence that the Clinton campaign had in the Democratic primary. It turns out that the Democratic Party was massively biased in her favor, and against Sanders. Clinton was sent debate questions ahead of time, and her team even got the final say in DNC press releases. This bias is still evident in the 2020 election; for instance, former Clinton campaign staffers created the caucus app with Shadow. But if one seeks further proof, they can look no further than to the 2020 Des Moines Register poll, traditionally the last poll released before the Iowa caucus. Curiously, Buttigieg’s team had the results pulled because one person didn’t see Buttigieg’s name on the candidate list. One person. Later, results were leaked indicating Buttigieg underperformed and came in third in that poll. Such negative publicity would surely have hurt him going into Iowa, which is likely the real reason why the poll was pulled. As President Trump himself even said, “They are rigging the election again against Bernie Sanders, just like last time, only even more obviously.”

If these errors weren’t terrible enough, the Democratic Party actually took Sanders’ votes and gave them to Deval Patrick and Tom Steyer. Given how varying these candidates are (in name and policy), such an error is unlikely just incompetence, especially since it happened with nearly 1,000 votes. The only reason this discrepancy was even discovered is that a county supervisor in Black Hawk county pointed out that what was reported did not match his final results. This is likely the case in other counties as well, meaning Sanders, at least in Black Hawk county, actually got 511 more votes than reported. Though this error was corrected, it’s unlikely future ones will be. In leaked internal emails, the Iowa Democratic Party actually stated that these blatant errors “must not be changed to ensure the integrity of the process.” They are arguing for keeping the mistakes. That is the farthest thing from a fair process, and it further illustrates their corruption.

In the midst of all these miscalculations, blunders and numbers that don’t add up (where candidates with fewer votes got far more delegates), full results were just recently released. These show Sanders with 12 delegates and Buttigieg with 14 (though Sanders has since requested a recanvass). Considering how close the election was (with a raw vote Sanders lead and a state delegate equivalent Buttigieg lead), if anything, those numbers should be flipped around. Think about this: the loser of the raw vote total, Buttigieg, got more delegates than the winner. How on Earth is that a fair or accurate delegate count? Ultimately, when every mistake occurs in favor of one candidate, they’re not mistakes. Also, given most Sanders supporters (a demographic one needs to win the votes of) will not back Buttigieg if he wins the nomination because they were cheated out of a fair election, can we really expect a Democratic victory if Buttigieg is the nominee? No.

At the end of this disaster, who is victorious? None of the Democrats are, either because they underperformed, or because they did well but were denied positive and timely press coverage. Truly, the past week has been a sad one for the Democratic Party. In fact, this debacle only benefits one person: Trump. Now, he is able to go out and say things like, “They can’t even run a caucus and they want to run the government.”

Coming after the Senate acquitted him and his approval shot to an all-time record high, it is clear that the only winner from the Iowa debacle is Trump himself, who revels in the spectacle of the Iowa Democratic Party’s incompetence or corruption. If we take the state delegate equivalent count, as of now, Buttigieg is on top. Going by raw vote totals, Sanders was the winner. But either way, the truth is clear. No matter who won, Iowa is a loss for the Democratic Party.