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An Iowa Paper Said the Democratic Caucuses Were a 'Debacle'

The "Des Moines Register" wrote in an editorial that the close contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was such a mess that the Iowa Democratic Party needs to reveal the raw vote totals and audit the results.

Bernie Sanders in Iowa in January. Photo via Flickr user Alex Hanson

Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton edged out an extremely narrow win over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Iowa caucuses, a result that nevertheless made it clear that Sanders, an irascible self-described democratic socialist, is a serious contender for president. But the contest was so close that it's not even clear Clinton won, said Iowa's leading newspaper, which wrote in a Wednesday editorial that "what happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period."


"Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it's worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states," the Des Moines Register editorial board continued. The editorial went on to describe conditions on the ground in the overcrowded and contentious caucus night:

"Too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night's chaos."

Adding to the confusion is the system used by the Iowa Democratic Party to pick a winner in these caucuses, which is based on "state delegate equivalents" instead of actual votes. Sanders has called for the raw vote totals to be released, presumably on the assumption that even though Clinton won the delegate count, he may have captured more hearts and minds than the former first lady. The Register editorial board echoed the demand that Democrats reveal how many people voted for each candidate, and also wanted an audit of the results and a commission to study how to improve the caucus process.

Clinton has been the frontrunner for as long as anyone's been thinking about the 2016 race, and there's been a lot of talk about how the Democratic Party has favored her over the insurgent Sanders. But a Sanders spokeswoman told the Register that even though the campaign had found some errors while doing its own review of the results, "It's not that we think anybody did anything intentionally."

Though the Register editorial board and others may have their doubts about what happened during the caucuses, the Sanders camp didn't challenge the Iowa results, which the candidate has called a "virtual tie." With the media largely declaring that Clinton's surprisingly close call was a victory for Sanders anyway, and his strong lead in the New Hampshire polls, the Vermont senator may be more interested in focusing on what lies ahead.