Caucus postmortem: Don't blame the DNC

Ira Lacher highlights key points from the internal review of the 2020 Iowa caucuses, conducted for the Iowa Democratic Party. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa political junkies have another reason to be thankful that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in on January 20.

Since a Democratic nomination fight for the 2024 elections appears unlikely, it means that, like a baseball pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a horribly injured shoulder, the Iowa caucuses have more time to rehab from their 2020 kerfuffle, which earned worldwide derision.

When the party on December 12 released its postmortem on the 2020 debacle, news outlets were quick to blame the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for much of the trouble. “Iowa autopsy report: DNC meddling led to caucus debacle,” was the headline from Politico. “Iowa caucus mishap fueled by DNC interference, state missteps: autopsy report” chimed in The Hill. From CNN: “Review largely blames Iowa caucus problems on Democratic National Committee.” USA Today and The New York Times also treated the story similarly.

And they were all wrong. Because that’s not what the 29-page report says.

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How to end a presidential campaign (and how not to)

Montana Governor Steve Bullock became the latest Democrat to end his presidential campaign on December 2, acknowledging in a statement that he “won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field of candidates.”

Like several others who have dropped out of the race, Bullock had a wealth of experience and was solid on many key issues for Democrats. He repeatedly vetoed abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, yet somehow persuaded the majority party to expand Medicaid in Montana and take steps to limit the influence of dark money. He could have given President Donald Trump a hell of fight in a general election, having won re-election in 2016 even as Trump carried his state by 20 points.

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Cybersecurity concerns delay DNC approval of Iowa caucus plan

The Iowa Democratic Party’s plan to allow Iowans to participate in the 2020 caucuses by phone is in doubt, due to concerns hackers could compromise the system.

Josh Putnam, who runs the Frontloading HQ website, was first to report on Twitter that the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee did not find Iowa’s proposed rules package to be in conditional compliance during an August 22 meeting. Putnam tweeted on August 23 that “cybersecurity concerns” prompted the delay for Iowa, as well as for Alaska and Nevada, which also have proposed “online components” for their 2020 caucuses.

Bloomberg’s Tyler Pager shed more light on the subject in an August 24 scoop:

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Iowa Democrats, mark your calendars for February 6, 2012

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee has recommended Monday, February 6, 2012 as the date for the next Iowa caucuses, according to Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who attended the meeting. The same body recommended February 14 for the New Hampshire primary, February 18 for the Nevada caucuses and February 28 for the South Carolina primary. All other Democratic nominating contests would occur in March or later.

Although we are unlikely to have real competition on the Democratic side in 2012, it’s good precedent to start the presidential nominating process in February rather than January. Having to knock on doors and phonebank between Christmas 2007 and New Year’s Day 2008 was insane.

The big question is how many states will try to jump ahead of the early states. The DNC rules committee recommends that states violating the proposed calendar would lose half of their delegates. The Republican Party adopted similar sanctions before the 2008 campaign, which didn’t deter Florida and Michigan from holding their primaries “too early.”

The 2010 Iowa caucuses were held on a Saturday afternoon, but off-year caucuses always have light attendance. A Saturday afternoon caucus in a presidential year was never likely, because observant Jews would be unable to participate.

I would like to see more reforms to the Iowa Democratic caucus process, including an absentee ballot option for shift workers who can’t get the night off or voters who are housebound. In Maine, Democrats can participate in the caucuses by absentee ballot.

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Iowa likely to go first again in 2012 presidential race

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee met yesterday in Washington and approved a proposed calendar for the 2012 presidential nominating process. The DemRulz blog noted that the calendar “tracks the DNC Change Commission recommendations,” which state that all primaries and caucuses must be held in March 2012 or later, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, which may schedule their nominating contests in February 2012. In a statement released to the media, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan hailed the vote as “another important step” that “will help us ensure that Iowa is First-in-the-Nation once again.”

The Republican National Committee has moved toward a similar calendar in 2012, with the same four states allowed to schedule primaries or caucuses in February, and all other states allowed to go beginning March 1. The final calendar may not reflect the RNC’s wishes, though; some states may try to jump ahead the way Florida and Michigan did in 2008.

I suspect Iowa’s representatives will have to fight hard to maintain our early position for the 2016 campaign. Democrats in several larger states resent the outsized influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are small and predominantly white. The calendar doesn’t matter much on the Democratic side for 2012, because it’s unlikely anyone will challenge Barack Obama for the nomination, but the next cycle will certainly be competitive, whether or not Obama wins a second term.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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