We told you it was complicated. Bye-owa for now! We'll see you in New Hampshire where candidates are touching down right now. But not before tonight's State of the Union address. Thanks for waking up with us.
THE CHAOS CAUCUSES: We may not know the winner. But there is unified sentiment among many Democrats that we may have witnessed the last-in-the nation Iowa caucuses.
Yes, we've heard that one before. But Monday night's epic meltdown due to “inconsistencies” in tabulating three sets of results may have crystallized the feeling that the antiquated and byzantine caucus process might need to come to an end. The disarray raised further questions about the disproportionate influence of Iowa, a mainly white state, in the critical nominating contest fueling early momentum — and the money chase — in the race for the White House.
Here's where we are after a crazy night: There is no official winner. The Iowa Democratic Party says it will announce the results later today, but there was mass confusion well into the wee hours of today after a new app designed to calculate the victory apparently broke down, and local officials trying to call in their results were placed on hold for long periods.
Things were going well until they weren't: Determined to avoid the operational disaster that was 2016, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County told Power Up that they recruited 2,000 volunteers to pull off caucuses in 177 different precincts. Things were going flawlessly, according to Chairman Sean Bagniewski — until local officials were unable to submit results electronically via the new app.
- Party officials struggled to explain what caused the delay during a pair of conference calls with the campaigns — on the first, they claimed 35 percent of precincts had successfully reported their numbers.
- But their initial response did not help: “On the call, when campaign aides pressed for a release time on the results, the IDP hung up,” our colleagues Sean Sullivan and Matt Viser report.
- “The app that was intended to relay Caucus results to the Party failed; the Party’s backup telephonic reporting system likewise has failed,” the Biden campaign wrote in an email, obtained by The Washington Post. “Now, we understand that Caucus Chairs are attempting to — and, in many cases, failing to — report results telephonically to the Party. These acute failures are occurring statewide.”
- “We knew the app was a problem last Thursday,” Bagniewski told our colleague Michael Scherer. “We had had so many complaints about the app that we started telling our chairs that if they were having problems with the app then you should call in the results,” Bagniewski said.
- “The state party did not provide any training on how to use the app, he said, adding that while the caucus trainings are done at the county level, the app itself came from the state level,” per Scherer.
- The app 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,” per the New York Times's Nick Corasaniti, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth.
Another reason things went so poorly: Iowa tried to have a caucus and a primary at the same time — it failed spectacularly.
- The caucuses were never designed for this: Longtime Iowa Democrats will remind you that caucuses were local party meetings thrust into the maelstrom of presidential campaigning in 1972. As the caucuses grew, Iowa Democrats tried to address criticisms by making the process more democratic. But the reforms the party made after 2016, including the crucial decision to release multiple sets of data, seem to have finally broken the process.
- Take it from an expert: “I don’t even think that it was really the Iowa Democrats who were itching to do this — that is to create a system that is essentially a primary for something that was never meant to be a primary and without making it a primary to not lose its place,” former University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk, who help write the literal book defending the caucuses, told Power Up.
By 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, party officials finally released a statement on the debacle that threatened the credibility of the entire process, overshadowing a year's worth of work and resources invested by Democrats:
- “We are validating every piece of data we have against our paper trail,” Iowa's Democratic Chair Troy Price told reporters. “That system is taking longer than expected but it's in place to ensure we are eventually able to report results with full confidence.”
- “We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” Mandy McClure, the IDP spokeswoman, said in a statement, emphasizing this was “simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. ”
It’s 2AM and we have supporters for Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren at Polk HQ going through every precinct box to send the results we have to the state party so we can finally go to bed.— Sean Bagniewski (@bagniewski) February 4, 2020
Our volunteers are literally tireless.#IACaucus pic.twitter.com/RKeWn839CE
Without results, some of the candidates sought to portray themselves as winners — real or imagined — cloaking themselves in glory for momentum's sake as they hopped on chartered planes to compete in next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, which seems even more critical than ever.
- “I have a strong feeling that at some point the results will be announced. And when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told cheering supporters at the Holiday Inn in downtown Des Moines.
- “What a night!” former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg exclaimed when he took the stage at his “victory party.” “Because tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality.”
- “From our indications, it's going to be close, we are going to walk out of here with our share of delegates. We don't know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are,” former vice president Joe Biden told his supporters.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was the first out to the mics: “We know there’s delays, but we know one thing: we are punching above our weight … We are feeling so good tonight.”
- Andrew Yang and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tempered their statements, with Warren saying the race was “too close to call,” and Yang — a “numbers guy” — “still waiting on number for tonight.”
But some Democrats went so far as to release their internal numbers. Buttigieg and Sanders revealed their results from precincts they claimed projected wins across the state and the Warren and Klobuchar campaigns also speculated that Biden underperformed:
- “What we know is that it was a tight top three. Warren, Bernie, Pete, and Biden was a distant fourth,” Warren's campaign manager told our colleague Annie Linskey.
- Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Dead at 48?: “There can be no doubting it now, not after so many years spent in the crosshairs, not after active presidential candidates began challenging its privileged position atop the nominating calendar, and certainly not after Monday night’s debacle that left seven candidates and millions of viewers waiting for results that never came: Iowa’s reign is over,” Politico’s Tim Alberta reports.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn.) chief of staff:
Big night in Iowa. With the numbers we’ve seen internally and publicly, we’re running even or ahead of Vice President Biden. Wheels up to New Hampshire!— Justin Buoen (@jbuoen) February 4, 2020
On the ground: Before the ethanol hit the fan, reporters watched democracy take shape in real time as Iowans caucused in gymnasiums across the state.
We camped out in Ankeny's 12th district — a swingy suburb 30 minutes from Des Moines — where in just under two hours, hundreds of people gathered in the middle-school gym to formalize their choices.
Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg had no problems meeting the viability threshold allowing their campaigns to win delegates, and enjoyed a robust and lively turnout. Biden barely qualified. And supporters of Yang, Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, etc. were forced to realign with another candidate after their first choice failed to gain traction. Buttigieg ultimately secured the largest number of delegates here.
A few new things we picked up on or were reminded of during the exercise:
- Unity, unity, unity!: From the IDP's prepared statement to the presentations of the various precinct captains — Democrats punctuated every thought with the disclaimer they need to rally around the nominee come November, regardless of who that might be.
- Sanders fans are trying to broaden their support in suburban areas through their younger base: “It's very suburban, soccer mommy place, that kind of thing, so we've reached out especially to their kids who are very into Bernie Sanders trying to get their parents into Bernie Sanders, too,” Alex Andrade, a 29-year-old precinct captain for Sanders in Ankeny, told Power Up.
- Kinda sad: Biden was almost declared nonviable here until the secretary of a Warren caucus left that camp for Biden because he “felt bad” for the former vice president. “Guess he wanted to spice things up,” the Warren precinct captain remarked to us.
- Read our colleagues Jenna Johnson, Tim Craig, Rachel Chason and Julie Zauzmer on their lessons learned from the night
At one Des Moines precinct tonight, an attendee brought in a concealed bottle of wine, dropped it, and it shattered everywhere pic.twitter.com/qHNMP6NLOH— Iowa Starting Line (@IAStartingLine) February 4, 2020
Leading the Des Moines Register: “For more than a year, the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign has played out in Iowa. But after roughly 2,500 campaign events, the 2020 caucus cycle is nearly over — without results,” the Register’s Sarah Kay LeBlanc and Danny Lawhon report.
The app that crashed: “A tech company affiliated with, and funded by, ACRONYM, a Democratic digital nonprofit group that has rapidly expanded in recent years, was responsible for building the Iowa caucus app that contributed to delays in reporting Monday night’s results in the first vote in the party’s presidential race. Multiple Democratic sources, including one of the presidential campaigns, confirmed the app’s creator,” HuffPost’s Kevin Robillard, Amanda Terkel, and Molly Redden report.
- Inside Shadow: “State campaign finance records indicate the Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow, a tech company that joined with ACRONYM last year, more than $60,000 for “website development” over two installments in November and December of last year. A Democratic source with knowledge of the process said those payments were for the app that caucus site leaders were supposed to use to upload the results at their locales.”
From The Post's chief correspondent, Dan Balz, on the ground: “The one conclusion from the numbers that were being collected by the media suggested that the eventual winner would receive a lower percentage of the vote than any previous winner since 1972, when the modern caucuses were born. But that could end up being the secondary story. On Monday night, it was all about Iowa and not the candidates.”
The last word: David Yepsen is a former Register chief politics reporter and widely regarded as the dean of Iowa reporters:
CLOSING ARGUMENTS IN SENATE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: “Arguments for and against [Trump’s] ouster ended in the Senate impeachment trial, with the House managers calling the president a danger to democracy because of his actions toward Ukraine and Trump’s legal team arguing that impeachment, not Trump’s conduct, is the real threat,” our colleagues Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Robert Costa report.
Remember: The trial is basically over. Trump will give his State of the Union address in the capitol tonight, and senators are expected to vote to acquit him tomorrow on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Manchin pitches censure: “Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a moderate who is friendly with the White House, asked his colleagues to consider censuring [Trump] as the Senate moves toward votes on impeachment,” our colleagues Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis report. We don't yet know whether Manchin is a vote for acquittal if this gambit doesn't succeed.
- Murkowski comes out against impeachment: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), “who had been eyed by Democrats as a potential crossover vote, said that she made up her mind once it became clear that a potential tie vote in the Senate would be used to ‘burn down’ the judicial branch for partisan purposes,” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports.
CORONAVIRUS REMAINS A BIG PROBLEM: States are scrambling to enforce Trump's orders restricting travel from China, report our colleagues Lena H. Sun, Lori Aratani, William Wan and Antonio Olivo. In the latest developments, Hong Kong reported its first fatality from the virus, and Macao shut down its casinos. Anna Fifield reports six more infections in both Thailand and Singapore.
- “In interviews, state officials said the order came on Friday with no advance notice and little planning,” report Lena, Lori, William and Antonio.
- “The restrictions ban non-U. S. citizens who recently visited China from entering the country and quarantine Americans who visited Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, within the past 14 days,” they added.
- Don't go there: “The administration is also requiring screening and self-monitoring of symptoms for Americans who recently visited other parts of China. All flights from China as of Sunday evening are being funneled to 11 airports: in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Honolulu, Newark, Detroit, Dallas and just outside the District.”
- Temporary digs? “Among the options being considered for housing quarantined travelers are hotels, military bases and trailers, officials said Monday.”
- Status report: “The World Health Organization reported 153 confirmed cases in 23 countries outside China, including 11 in the United States. "