Terrible Tuesday Reads: Iowa’s Chaotic Meltdown, Clusterf#ck, Sh#tshow

Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston, by Frederick Child Hassam

Good Morning!!

Can we please stop letting Iowa go first now?


Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: R.I.P. the ‘First-In-the-Nation’ Iowa Caucuses (1972-2020).

The “first-in-the-nation” Iowa caucuses died Monday night after a protracted battle with advanced-stage omnishambles.

DeMoines Skyline by Buffalo Bonker

Or so we can hope. Iowa’s eccentric, endearing — and wildly anti-democratic — nominating contest has always been an indefensible institution. There is no reason why the most politically-engaged and/or time-rich citizens of America’s 31st most populous state should have the power to veto presidential candidates before anyone else in the country has a say. And yet, few of Iowa’s bitterest critics ever dreamed it would subject the country to something like this.

As of this writing, we are one hour into Tuesday morning and only a small fraction of Iowa precincts have reported their results. Officials currently say that they hope to have the numbers by “some time Tuesday.” The ostensible reasons for this are twofold. 1) This year, for the first time ever, the Iowa Democratic Party was required to report three distinct sets of results — the vote tally on “first alignment,” the vote tally on “final alignment” (when backers of candidates who lack 15% support redistribute their votes to higher-polling candidates), and the final delegate tally. In the past, the party was only on the hook for that last metric, which is much easier to tabulate. 2) To ease the burden of logging all this information from more than 1,600 precincts, the party developed an app for reporting results — which many precinct chairs could not figure out how to use. Thus, they began calling in the results on a telephone hotline. Much waiting on hold ensued.

Guess who pushed for the changes in the vote counting and reporting?

Politico: ‘It’s a total meltdown’: Confusion seizes Iowa as officials struggle to report results.

No results had been reported by midnight Eastern, and two campaigns told POLITICO that after a conference call with the Iowa Democratic Party, they didn’t expect any returns until Tuesday morning at the earliest.

Candidates stepped into the void. Pete Buttigieg went first by claiming victory — misleadingly, in the view of Bernie Sanders, whose campaign responded by releasing unofficial figures showing his strength. Amy Klobuchar also joined in by citing unverified results she said demonstrated a robust performance.

Edward Hopper cityscape

The biggest “winner” might have been Joe Biden. According to the Iowa entrance poll, he was hovering close to the viability threshold of 15 percent statewide. But the questions surrounding the vote-counting served to obscure a potentially poor performance. The former vice president, facing potentially ugly headlines going into New Hampshire and beyond, couldn’t get out of Iowa fast enough.

“We’re going to walk out of here with our share of delegates,” Biden declared to a packed room on the Drake University campus. “It’s on to New Hampshire!”

Conversely, it might have delivered a blow to Sanders and Buttigieg, who appeared on track to do well in the state. Whether the victor turns out to be Sanders or Buttigieg or someone else, that candidate was denied the chance to give an election night victory speech to a nationwide audience — a springboard heading into New Hampshire.

Read more at Politico.

The New York Times:

The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses on Monday was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party.

It was quickly put together in just the past two months, said the people, some of whom asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Life in the Suburbs, by Leonard Koscianski

And 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.

And let’s not forget what happened with the final Iowa poll. Ben Smith at Buzzfeed News: This Iowa Poll Was Never Published. It’s Still Influencing What You Read.

The Des Moines Register spiked its poll Saturday night, but by the next day it seemed most reporters here had seen the numbers — or something purporting to be the numbers.

Here’s what happened: As the Des Moines Register readied a cover story and CNN prepped for an hourlong special about the time-honored poll, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name hadn’t been offered to some poll recipients. The pollster, Ann Selzer, quickly discovered the glitch in a Florida call center that triggered the error. It seemed likely to be just a minor error — but everyone involved cares about their reputation for trustworthiness, and they quickly decided to pull the poll rather than publish with doubts.

But the news organizations had already been preparing to publish the numbers, and a version of them began to circulate almost instantly. I won’t print those numbers: I haven’t been able to confirm that the numbers I’ve seen are the already-questionable official ones.

And yet, most veterans of coverage here trust Selzer’s surveys. So many acknowledged to me last night that they’d quietly taken the unreleased and possibly wrong numbers into account.

“Nobody was talking about Elizabeth Warren and now everybody thinks she has a shot because of those numbers,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive political consultant who supports Warren. (It’s not the only reason, I should note: Other polls this week also showed Warren in a strong position, as did the last published Selzer poll in January.)

Read more at the link.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process.

In trying to build a forecast model of the Democratic primaries, we literally had to think about the entire process from start (Iowa) to finish (the Virgin Islands on June 6). Actually, we had to do more than that. Since the nomination process is sequential — states vote one at a time rather than all at once — we had to determine, empirically, how much the results of one state can affect the rest.

By Ron Francis

The answer in the case of Iowa is that it matters a lot. Despite its demographic non-representativeness, and the quirks of the caucuses process, the amount of media coverage the state gets makes it far more valuable a prize than you’d assume from the fact that it only accounts for 41 of the Democrats’ 3,979 pledged delegates.

More specifically, we estimate — based on testing how much the results in various states have historically changed the candidates’ position in national polls — that Iowa was the second most-important date on the calendar this year, trailing only Super Tuesday. It was worth the equivalent of almost 800 delegates, about 20 times its actual number.

Everything was a little weird in Iowa this year, however. And there were already some signs that the Iowa bounce — which essentially results from all the favorable media coverage that winning candidates get — might be smaller than normal….

But we weren’t prepared for what actually happened, which is that — as I’m writing this at 3:15 a.m. on Tuesday — the Iowa Democratic Party literally hasn’t released any results from its caucuses. I’m not going to predict what those numbers will eventually be, although early indications are that Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and perhaps Elizabeth Warren had good results. The point is that the lead story around the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses is now — and will forever be — the colossal shitshow around the failure to release results in a timely fashion.

In other news, The New York Times Magazine has published an article adapted from David Enrich’s forthcoming book about Trump and Deutche Bank: The Money Behind Trump’s Money. The inside story of the president and Deutsche Bank, his lender of last resort. It’s very long and involved, but here’s a brief excerpt:

George Grosz, Street Scene

Last April, congressional Democrats subpoenaed ­Deutsche Bank for its records on Trump, his family members and his businesses. The Trump family sued to block the bank from complying; after two federal courts ruled against the Trumps, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, with oral arguments expected in the spring. State prosecutors, meanwhile, are investigating the bank’s ties with Trump, too. The F.B.I. has been conducting its own wide-­ranging investigation of ­Deutsche Bank, and people connected to the bank told me they have been interviewed by special agents about aspects of the Trump relationship.

If they ever become public, the bank’s Trump records could serve as a Rosetta Stone to decode the president’s finances. Executives told me that the bank has, or at one point had, portions of Trump’s personal federal income tax returns going back to around 2011. (­Deutsche Bank lawyers told a federal court last year that the bank does not have those returns; it is unclear what happened to them. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) The bank has documents detailing the finances and operations of his businesses. And it has records about internal deliberations over whether and how to do business with Trump — a paper trail that most likely reflects some bank employees’ concerns about potentially suspicious transactions that they detected in the family’s accounts.

One reason all these files could be so illuminating is that the bank’s relationship with Trump extended well beyond making simple loans. ­Deutsche Bank managed tens of millions of dollars of Trump’s personal assets. The bank also furnished him with other services that have not previously been reported: providing sophisticated financial instruments that shielded him from risks and outside scrutiny, and making introductions to wealthy Russians who were interested in investing in Western real estate. If Trump cheated on his taxes, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If his net worth is measured in millions, not billions, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If he secretly got money from the Kremlin, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know.

Also, Trump will give his fake state of the union address tonight, and I won’t be watching. What are you thinking and reading today?

34 Comments on “Terrible Tuesday Reads: Iowa’s Chaotic Meltdown, Clusterf#ck, Sh#tshow”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    I kind of think that I have lost interest in the whole thing. I just can’t with Bernie Sanders.

    We lost some good candidates along the way, long before I was offered a choice. But this fiasco is something else. The choices I am left with are rather unappealing.

    So I guess I will sit this one out until election day. I am committed to rid the nation of the worst POTUS to ever hold that office and I will vote for the Democratic nominee regardless.

    Trust has been forsaken and for me there is little point in continuing to care one way or the other.

    Whatever the issue is in Iowa has little bearing going forward. Sad to say.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      I guess it’s time to blame Hillary and Hillary people again …


      • dakinikat says:

        • NW Luna says:

          “is perhaps more disturbing” Perhaps?

          • quixote says:

            Actually, I think an NYT opinion writer falling for drivel as fast as possible IS worse than getting the results a day later than expected.

            You can be sure it’s not the only time she’s done that, most of the time she’s not under this kind of scrutiny, and she’s got the biggest megaphone there is.

            That kind of thing drips toxin into the system. Getting the results late is a mere glitch. (Caused by Boinie trying to game the system, which is another toxin, but the glitch itself is nothing.)

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Richard Hasen at Slate: Trump’s Jokes About Defying Election Results Could Create Chaos

    Trump’s certainty that he simply cannot lose could have a real impact on this year’s election. Since assuming office in January 2017, Trump has made at least 27 references to staying in office beyond the constitutional limit of two terms. He often follows up with a remark indicating he is “joking,” “kidding,” or saying it to drive the “fake” news media “crazy.” Even if Trump thinks that he’s only “joking,” the comments fit a broader pattern that raises the prospect that Trump may not leave office quietly in the event he’s on the losing end of a very close election. And unfortunately this possibility is only one of a number of potential election meltdowns we may face in November….

    The 2020 election is expected to be a close one, and it could give Trump an opening to emulate his authoritarian role models. During the 2016 election, he playfully suggested he would not accept the results of the election if he was on the losing end. As I recount in my book Election Meltdown, Trump refused to promise to abide by the results if he lost to Hillary Clinton, relying on his claim of a rigged or stolen election. On Oct. 20, 2016, at a rally in Delaware, Ohio, he declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a major announcement today. I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win.” His dramatic pause before “if I win” was followed by Trump pointing to the crowd and offering a big smile so that everyone knew that this was his punchline.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  6. NW Luna says:

    I’m so glad the WA state Dem party got rid of caucuses. It’s up to the individual state parties as to what system they use to select candidates. The whole arcane, undemocratic, confusing, lengthy and aggravating caucus system should have been dropped by all the states.

  7. NW Luna says:

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. MsMass says:

    I like your title.
    Sometimes elections and events happen that make you say- “just blow the whole thing up”- like when the Repugs decided no witnesses for the impeachment-( and yet their guy is innocent!)
    Sanders is just marginally better than Trump but he appeals to that blow-the-thing-up like Trump does. Ah, youth. It reminds me of the 1972 election when Nixon won, even though we, the youth,against the war,believed in our righteousness. Losing was a hard lesson.
    Surely if Sanders wins, he would back the environment, civil rights, other liberal issues.
    What would the financial world look like, though? There’s the blow-the world-up part again.
    I’m just looking for the silver lining.

    • quixote says:

      Well, he was pro-fighter jets when it meant money for Vermont, and pro-nuke, and pro-dump the waste somewhere in Texas in a poor community. And he’s voted against any limits on guns, like, 5 times, 6 times. I wouldn’t assume he’d be liberal when it came down to it.

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. dakinikat says:

    suffragette white!!!

  12. dakinikat says:

    How many tickets out?

    • quixote says:

      Christ on a pogo stick, gettin out any way he can.

    • NW Luna says:

      Does the media remember this is representative of about 15% of Iowans? The ones with the fewest responsibilities that would keep them from attending hours of argumentative caucus?

      Also, a small-town mayor?

      endless screaming