BIPP: The Iowa caucus disaster

Harry Morris, BIPP Intern

Iowa may not provide many delegates during the nomination process, but it is still an important moment for the primary elections, as it does offer a chance to assess which candidates lead the Democratic primary race. Since 1972, the winner of the Democratic caucuses in Iowa has gone on to win the nomination seven out of 10 times. Candidates who win Iowa often attract more financial donors, thereby helping them to gain momentum. The caucuses also allow voters to demonstrate which issues that matter to them most via entrance and exit polls conducted by various news and survey groups. Additionally, it is an opportunity for both parties to show their intentions and goals for the election year. In this last sense, the Democratic party has unequivocally dropped the ball.

The 2020 Iowa caucus was a disaster. As of Wednesday night, no winner has even been declared after the Monday voting. The app that the Iowa Democratic Party picked caused the issues. The app was developed by a relatively unknown startup named Shadow Inc. The company was founded by a prior campaign aide from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Unlike the foreign hacking issues that plagued the 2016 election, the problems came from a “coding issue” that made the reported results unreliable. The underlying data was fine, but the party could not report the results for another day. The app also caused frustration for users, and the alternative method of phoning the party officials in Iowa took hours.

Both the company and the Iowa Democratic Party have since publicly acknowledged the mistakes and apologized. The candidates have already pivoted their campaigns to New Hampshire, but not without debacle. Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg caused controversy on Monday night when he declared victory for himself in Iowa. This declaration was then criticized by Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign, who released internal polling data that showed Sanders to be in the lead. Buttigieg since said that his declaration of victory was rather a general statement on the underdog success of his campaign. Regardless, accusations of the mayor having deceived the public have spread across social media — so much so that the hashtag #MayorCheat is currently trending.

Controversy aside, there is important data to analyze coming from the Iowa caucuses polls. First, a majority of Iowa Democratic voters consider healthcare to be the most important issue to them, a trend largely shared nationwide and across party lines. Additionally, 67 percent of Democratic voters also reported being “very” or “somewhat” liberal. This is a similar figure to the 2016 primary, where that percentage was 68 percent. The biggest takeaway is that over 60 percent of voters prioritize their candidate being able to win against Donald Trump in November rather than agreeing with their candidate on issues, compared to the 20 percent in 2016 who said that winning in November is their main focus.

For months, President Trump has taken to Twitter to discredit the Democrats as weak and disorganized. The DNC validated him on Monday night. Democratic voters largely care about an organized party and a campaign that can win the general election. There have been no signs from the past four years that this will happen. The DNC leaks in 2016 showed fissures, and now the first state in the primary campaign has shown frailty and disorganization within the party infrastructure. Judging by the average approval rating, Trump is the least popular president ever. This will not matter if the DNC once again shows complete incompetence.

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