If there's one good thing about the train wreck in Iowa, they can't blame Donald Trump! Monday's caucus meltdown was a disaster all right, but the failure was the Democrats' and the Democrats alone. After months of pushing for a fancy new app to kick off the primary season, the party got one -- along with a technical disaster big enough to throw off the entire nomination process. Welcome to 2020, America.
It was the official start to the election season -- until it wasn't. Deep into the night, Iowa officials finally had to admit: there were no verified results. Overwhelmed by technical issues, party officials had only tallied about 30 percent of the vote when they announced that "coding issues" and major flaws with the app had sent state officials back to the drawing board. Using back-up data, they started piecing together information from frustrated caucus chairs, who either couldn't log in at all or were stuck on hotlines trying to get help. Des Moines County chair Tom Courtney said the whole process was "a mess," and caucus organizers were "reduced to having to phone in their results to state party headquarters, which was, at times, too busy to pick up."
Then, early Tuesday, Americans woke to the news that Iowa Democrats could have prevented this whole fiasco. "[We'd] offered to test the app," acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News. "They declined."
A number of campaigns tried to salvage the night by declaring victory -- a comical sight since not one of them had any numbers to back the claim up. By the wee hours of the morning, Politico decided that the biggest "winner" might have been Joe Biden, who -- in the early tallies -- was seriously underperforming. "According to the Iowa entrance poll, he was hovering close to the viability threshold of 15 percent statewide... [F]acing potentially ugly headlines going into New Hampshire and beyond, [the former vice president] couldn't get out of Iowa fast enough." For candidates like Biden, Brian Fallon tweeted, "this reporting delay is like waking up to snowstorm on the day of a test you forgot to study for."
The only certain success of the night was Trump's, who won over 30,000 Iowans -- breaking Barack Obama's record for an incumbent president. For everyone else, the president tweeted, the night was an "unmitigated disaster." "Nothing works, just like they ran the country." Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) put an even finer point on it when he told reporters, "[Democrats] can't stand in a gymnasium and count who stands under which sign, and [they] want to be in charge of our healthcare...? These are the socialist candidates who say, 'We know best, trust us to run your life.' Well, guys, figure out how to count your votes first."
For analysts like Scott Rasmussen, the delay is especially frustrating. Apart from being the first test for Democrats, Iowa happens to be one of the states with the most "pivot counties" -- areas that broke for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but then flipped for Trump in 2016. There are 206 of them in America, Rasmussen explained, and 31 of them are in Iowa. While he waits for that crucial intel, there are other ways to determine if the president is on track. "What we know right now is that... early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016," the state party's communications director said. If that trend holds, it's a hopeful sign for Republicans that the Left doesn't have quite the same enthusiasm as it did in 2008, when Barack Obama was running.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic's warning early Monday morning is still ringing in everyone's ears. "The Iowa caucus could go very wrong," they predicted. Exactly how wrong, no one knew. But as the hours drag on, the bigger question for Democrats may not be who won Iowa, but how much did the party lose in the process?