World·Analysis

Delayed Iowa caucus results could rob winner of 'bump' ahead of New Hampshire

After hours of waiting for results from the caucus vote in Iowa on Monday, the state Democratic Party said results won't be released until Tuesday. The biggest loser in the delay debacle — not including the state party, which is responsible for the caucus process — may just be the eventual winner of the state.

State party tells presidential campaigns partial results will be released Tuesday evening

Competing claims for victory emerged in Iowa, but the contenders for the Democratic nomination all cried 'It's on to New Hampshire!'   1:38

The biggest loser in the Iowa caucus result debacle — not including the Iowa Democratic Party, which is responsible for Monday night's process and the delayed results — may just be the eventual winner of the state.

After hours of waiting for results from the vote on Monday, the Iowa Democratic Party said results had been indefinitely delayed due to technology problems and reporting "inconsistencies." The delay was not caused by a hack, party officials said, adding that results would be released at some point Tuesday. 

Around midday Tuesday, the state party said it would release partial results at 5 p.m. ET, Reuters reported. 

The delay means that Democratic presidential hopefuls, who dedicated huge amounts of time and money to winning over voters in Iowa, are now moving on to New Hampshire (which holds its primary vote next week) without a clear sense of who can claim victory in the first contest. 

That may very well have been Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, based on polls, was the perceived front-runner heading into the caucuses. But his main rivals — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former vice-president Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — aren't giving up. In fact, Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., went so far as to claim a win in Iowa, saying: "By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious."

But even as he claimed victory, Buttigieg acknowledged that the main message coming out of Monday night's process was one of confusion. "We don't know all the results. But we know by the time it's all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation."

WATCH | Pete Buttigieg makes early claim to victory amid Iowa caucus confusion:

The Democratic presidential candidate said 'we are going on to New Hampshire victorious' even though the results of the Iowa caucuses have not come in. 0:37

This lack of a clear message out of Monday's caucuses could diminish the impact of a win in the state, which draws intense media attention every four years as the site of the first contest in the process to name a party nominee for president. A win in Iowa generally comes with the added bonus of increased media exposure and a big momentum boost — a factor that has been beneficial to other candidates in the past.

Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois, won Iowa in 2008. The attention and momentum he gained after his victory over Hillary Clinton in the caucuses helped carry him to the Democratic nomination.

Winning Iowa has also become a pretty reliable indicator for Democrats in determining who will become the party's nominee. Seven of the last nine Democratic presidential nominees won the state.

Ian Sams, former national press secretary for Sen. Kamala Harris's failed presidential campaign, said on Twitter that the later the results come out, "the less of a "bump" the eventual winner gets out of Iowa."

Sams also noted that, in part, there would be fewer hours to "seize attention and, thus, momentum" due to competition with U.S. President Donald Trump's state of the union address and the impeachment vote in the Senate, slated for Tuesday night and Wednesday respectively.

'Very unfortunate' 

For voters who took part in the caucuses, the delay was disappointing.

"It's very, very, very unfortunate," said Kimberly Graham, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and was one of the Sanders supporters awaiting results at his Holiday Inn caucus party headquarters in Des Moines. "It is pretty rough."

"I will say this — technology is awesome. Sometimes it doesn't work. It's very unfortunate it didn't happen today."

WATCH | See what it's like inside an Iowa caucus:

This suburban Iowa church gymnasium is one of 1,600 locations where the state's Democratic voters kick off the race to select the party's 2020 presidential nominee. CBC's Katie Simpson breaks down how it works. 1:36

With zero results reported, candidates nevertheless took to the stage Monday to address the crowds at their respective caucus party headquarters. Unable to comment on the results, they could only offer optimistic sound bites for their supporters.

"It looks like it's going to be a long night, but we're feeling good," Biden said, suggesting the final results would be close. But the former vice-president also added that his campaign is in the race for "the long haul."

Sanders said he had "a good feeling we're going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa" once results were posted.

'RIP caucuses'

While the state Democratic party will certainly take the brunt of the criticism, supporters of Trump were quick to pounce and raise questions about the competency of the party as a whole.

"They can't even run a caucus and they want to run a government," tweeted Trump campaign chairman Brad Parscale.

The president himself chimed in on Tuesday morning.

Others suggested this could be the end for the caucus system in the state. 

Critics have already questioned Iowa's first-place position in the nominating process, complaining that the state, with a population that's about 90 per cent white, doesn't reflect the broader party, which relies heavily on diverse groups.

"RIP caucuses," tweeted David Yepsen, a former veteran political reporter for the Des Moines Register.

Howard Dean, who made a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004, told CBC News that he thinks there should be broader changes to the primary process. 

Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states in the nominating process, aren't as demographically diverse as the rest of the country or the Democratic base, Dean said, and shouldn't automatically serve as the starting point every election cycle. 

WATCH: Howard Dean talks about the Iowa caucuses and how primaries should change

Howard Dean, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, says the Iowa caucus debacle won't matter if they win in November. 5:26

Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also said the caucus process itself is unfair as people who have other obligations like work or caring for family members can't attend.

Iowa Democrats did make some changes ahead of Monday's caucuses, including holding satellite caucuses outside the state.

Dean, who spoke to News Network Tuesday morning, had a similar message as Sams, noting that the delay in reporting results could hurt the small bounce that winners usually see coming out of Iowa. But over the long run, he said he doesn't expect a major impact on candidates as the race moves forward. 

Rick Hasen, professor of Law and Political Science at UC Irvine, tweeted earlier that this kind of mishap can have a more significant impact on potential voters than other electoral irregularities.

"You are much more likely to be disenfranchised by incompetence than voter suppression or fraud," he tweeted.

About the Author

Mark Gollom

Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now