Manhattan Caucus: Io-what the Heck Happened?

By Rose Brennan & Megan Dreher, Senior Writers

Many thought that the upheaval of the 2016 Democratic National Convention was the messiest display ever showcased by American Democrats.  But the DNC may have just been unseated by the 2020 Iowa caucuses.

On Feb. 3, exactly nine months before Election Day, the 2020 primary season kicked off in Iowa.  But this “kickoff” was just about as disastrous as it could have been, akin to the ball getting kicked into the stands and hitting two spectators in the face.

Usually, when the doors close at the Iowa caucuses at 7 p.m. local time, initial polling numbers are less than an hour away.  But hours upon hours passed, TV commentators said the same things over and over to fill dead air and the rest of America fell asleep without knowing who claimed victory in the initial primary vote of 2020.  The night ended with a whopping zero percent of Iowa districts reporting their polling numbers.

Polling numbers were announced sporadically throughout the week.  Initial numbers were announced on Feb. 4 at 5:00 p.m. with 62 percent of districts reporting.  Gradually, more and more districts reported, and the final count was released on Feb. 6, but the final count was deemed too close to call.

This technical difficulty was largely blamed on the failure of the new Shadow app, used by the caucuses to have an electronic tally of the results.  However, the approach to counting the votes soon went from 21st century to 19th century, as polling place after polling place resorted to paper ballots.

Several news outlets reported Shadow’s funding from previous and current Democratic presidential candidates, including former mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Since 2000, every Democratic candidate that won the Iowa caucus went on to secure the party’s nomination for president.  If this remains true, then it is good news for either Sen. Bernie Sanders or former mayor Pete Buttigieg.  As of press time, the race has still been deemed “too close to call,” but both candidates were in a dead heat for first place with 100 percent of districts reporting.  Buttigieg currently has 13 delegates pledged to him from the caucuses, while Sanders has 12.

Both Sanders and Buttigieg separately declared victory in the caucuses.  Buttigieg said, “Iowa, you have shocked the nation. By all indications, we are going to New Hampshire victorious,” in both his victory speech the night of the caucus and later on his official Twitter account.

Sanders, however, waited until the following day to declare victory.  When he made the statement, he was ahead of Buttigieg by 6,000 votes with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

“When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in Northern New England call that a victory,” he said.

In addition to Buttigieg and Sanders, three other candidates left Iowa with at least a few pledged candidates in their pockets.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts placed third with eight delegates.  Biden placed fourth, in what the New York Times described as a “damaging blow” to his campaign.  Nevertheless, he received six delegates in the caucus.  Finally, Sen. Amy Klobuchar placed fifth with a grand total of one delegate.

Usually, the Iowa caucuses would be enough excitement for one week.  But quite a lot happened in the realm of politics this week: a State of the Union address, an acquittal of impeachment for President Donald Trump and the ninth Democratic Debate, which was held in Manchester, N.H. four days before the New Hampshire primaries.

This time, seven of the twelve remaining candidates qualified for the debate: Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, Warren, and businessman Andrew Yang.

Despite a lackluster performance in the caucus, Klobuchar performed quite well at the debate, delivering some of her one-line zingers in addition to some criticism for Buttigieg, one of her main rivals for the moderate Democrat vote.

Warren also stood out for her comments on race in America, and made it a strong talking point.  Unfortunately, aside from that, she essentially faded into the background for most of the debate, which could be troublesome for her heading into the New Hampshire primaries.

Biden also had a lackluster performance at the debate, which unfortunately has come to be expected.  He simply is not as strong of a speaker as his fellow candidates, but he nevertheless has the name recognition and national polling numbers to do well in the primary season.

This week has been nothing short of a whirlwind of chaos for American politics in general, particularly as it relates to the Iowa caucus.  Hopefully, the impending New Hampshire primaries will go off without a hitch.  And, unfortunately, it is quite likely that the American public will have final polling numbers from New Hampshire before Iowa.

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Editor’s note: Rose Brennan is an editorial intern at The Riverdale Press.