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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

What Happened in Iowa

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, has begun.

The Iowa caucuses resulted in a virtual tie between Sanders and Buttigieg.  But the count took a long time, and uncertainty marred the outcome.  Dirty tricks apparently hampered the process, but there were other reasons.

Maggie Astor at NYT reports:
Historically, the party had focused on highlighting only one caucus result: the number of delegates each candidate had earned for the state convention. The winner of the Iowa caucuses was the person who earned the most state delegates, which translate into national delegates, which determine the nomination. This year, however, the state party chose to release four results from the caucuses.
That’s because in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton edged out Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the state delegate count by a quarter of a percentage point, earning roughly 700 to Mr. Sanders’s 697. That meant 23 national delegates for Mrs. Clinton and 21 for Mr. Sanders — an inconsequential difference between the two rivals.

Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign fought for an audit in Iowa — comparing the reported results with the papers on which caucus leaders had recorded voters’ preferences — and accused the state Democratic Party of a lack of transparency.
Largely because of Mr. Sanders’s objections, the party decided to release additional numbers in 2020 that it had always logged but never made public: the number of supporters each candidate had in the first round of voting and the number he or she had in the second round, after nonviable candidates were eliminated and caucusgoers realigned.
... [The] need to report four sets of results instead of just one was a major factor in the debacle, as the state party struggled with what it called “inconsistencies” in all that data.
Matthew Rosenberg, Nick Corasaniti, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth at NYT:
The faulty smartphone app behind the chaotic aftermath of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses was the work of a little-known company called Shadow Inc. that was founded by veterans of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, and whose previous work was marked by a string of failures, including a near bankruptcy.
The app grew out of a broader push by Democrats, backed by tens of millions of dollars in donor money, to match the Republicans’ prowess in digital advertising and organizing after the 2016 election. Much of the energy and investment have gone into enterprises that are intended to both boost the Democrats’ digital game and turn a profit, like Shadow.
Yet instead of showcasing how far the Democrats had come since the 2016 defeat, the disarray surrounding the Iowa caucuses raised new questions about how the party hopes to compete in 2020 with the Trump campaign, a digital juggernaut that is churning out ads and raising record sums of money.
“It’s the exact opposite of the Trump team approach — bring the engineers in house, figure out exactly what we need, we build it, we test it, we own it,” said David Goldstein, chief executive of Tovo Labs, a progressive digital consulting firm.