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Delayed Results, An Early “Victor,” And A Surprise Winner- What Happened During This Year’s Mess Of An Iowa Caucus?


By: Naomi McDonald and Fiona Vicary 

SILVER SPRING, Md.– The 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus was heavily awaited. It’s the first way to see how voters are starting to lean, yet there were a great many hiccups along the way. 

The Saturday before, The Des Moines Register and CNN decided to pull their much-awaited annual poll. The poll was founded in 1943 and “it’s built its reputation over many decades for accuracy, and we feel the utmost responsibility to uphold that reputation,” said Carol Hunter, the executive editor of the Register. 

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name was left out of some of the surveys that were meant for the poll, making it not accurate. 

In addition to this poll being pulled days before the caucus, there were two other additional problems the night of, and continuing onto the day after. 

Results were supposed to come out the night of Monday, Feb. 3, yet as of 12:00 pm EST time Tuesday, Feb. 4, results were still not released. 

Democratic Party officials are saying that it’s a technology glitch that’s causing the delay in the release, a result of the brand new app Iowa caucus officials decided to use this year in order to speed up the caucus result process.

Some locations using their app reported difficulties, mostly because of confusion regarding the instructions and operating the app.  

The main issue, though, was that the main system collecting the data from the apps was only collecting partial data (and not showing the full results) because of a coding issue. The issue was later fixed.

Even though there were issues collecting the data and the results were not called yet, Pete Buttigieg made a speech claiming victory. 

All of the other candidates, instead of making any announcements about results, made moves to start talking about New Hampshire, the next primary. 

At the time Buttigieg made the speech there was 0% of precincts reporting data. 

Buttigieg believes he won because of data he received from internal campaign data, which is supposedly reporting from more than 1200 precincts, around 40 percent. 

On the evening of Feb. 4th, caucus results were finally starting to be released, with the final results not being released until late on Feb. 6.

 Mayor Pete Buttigieg took an early lead and ending up winning with 564 total delegate votes, according to The New York Times polls. 

The results indicate that Buttigieg won with the most delegates, but Senator Bernie Sanders finished with the most popular vote with 45,826 votes, 2,631 more votes than the delegate winner.

These results go into comparison against poll results taken the night before the caucus, indicating Senator Bernie Sanders would be in the lead with a vote of 24.2 percent, and Vice President Biden shortly behind with 20.2 percent of the vote.

Vice President Joe Biden finished with 15.8 percent of the vote, 4.4 percent worse than what these combined polls from Real Clear Politics projected.

In comparison, in the 2016 Iowa caucus, the polls for the top three Republican candidates the night before were as follows-

Donald Trump- 28.6%

Ted Cruz- 23.6%

Marco Rubio- 16.9%

And for the Democrats,

Hillary Clinton- 47.9%

Bernie Sanders- 43.9% 

Both Clinton and Sanders ended up with more of the vote than predicted, 49.9 and 49.6 respectively. While surprisingly there was an upset in the Republican caucus.

Ted Cruz pulled away with more votes than Donald Trump, with 27.6 percent and Trump receiving 24.3 percent. Marco Rubio also ended up with 6.2 percent more votes than predicted. 

This was a major upset, considering Donald Trump went on to be the party nominee, and it has become a trend that the winner of the Iowa caucus goes on to become the nominee.

From 1976 to 2012, the Democratic Iowa winner went on to become the party nominee all but twice, with two uncontested elections. In the same amount of time, the Republican winner went on to be the nominee three times, with three uncontested elections. 

What do these results mean in terms of the general election? Firstly, the win for Mayor Pete Buttigieg determines a huge upper hand for his campaign, as well as Senator Sanders’ popular vote lead. Generally, voters cast ballots based upon candidates they believe can win, and if a candidate shows their ability to gain success in an election, voters are likely to begin supporting that candidate in the general election.

The New Hampshire primary next week could be another tell of what is to come in this year’s general election. 


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