The controversial Iowa caucus could be headed to a recount, with potentially a lot at stake for Bernie Sanders in his bid to knock Hillary Clinton from her pedestal as Democratic Party frontrunner.
Clinton defeated Sanders by a razor-thin margin in Monday’s Iowa caucus, the first voting of the 2016 presidential primary season. While final tallies showed Clinton ahead by 0.2 percentage points the results were anything but clear, with allegations of impropriety at a number of caucus sites in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Now, the influential Des Moines Register is calling on state officials to conduct a full audit of the results. In an editorial published on Wednesday, the paper noted that in states with the more traditional primary format, such a close margin would automatically go to a recount.
Bernie Sanders still won’t concede Iowa caucus: https://t.co/7HOXGOFZ23
— ABC News (@ABC) February 3, 2016
WOW! The Des Moines Register questions the legitimacy of the Democratic Iowa Caucus results. https://t.co/ajlt7ine5J
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 4, 2016
The editorial also said an audit of the Iowa caucus results was in order after allegations that Clinton’s caucus leaders may have broken rules, improperly counted votes, and tilted the process in favor of Clinton.
“Second, 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.”
Bernie Sanders’ campaign staff has been looking over the results from each of the state’s precincts and has already found what they call inconsistencies. Some of these examples have already been making the rounds online. One came from Polk County, where CSPAN video allegedly shows the caucus chair and Clinton precinct captain failing to conduct an actual count and misleading the caucus.
Another video reportedly shows a Clinton caucus leader stalling to prevent a vote, which one witness said caused many Sanders supporters to leave and helped Clinton achieve viable results when she might not otherwise have.
It’s not clear if a recount would have a measureable change on the totals, if any. The nature of a caucus versus a primary makes it difficult to change results, and at best, Sanders may end up slightly ahead of Clinton. But it could have deeper results. Observer correspondent Brent Budowsky believes it could give new momentum to the Sanders campaign.
“Going forward I expect another surge in small donations to the Sanders campaign, and a surge in larger donations to the Clinton campaign, which means both candidates will have the funds to run full-blown 50 state campaigns.
“Going forward the Democratic National Committee rules on debates, obviously designed to help the Clinton campaign, should be thrown into the dustbin.
“There should be a series of two-candidate debates to discuss the great issues on a high plane, with a positive spirit, and without negative campaigning.”
And a full recount of the Iowa caucus could strike to the heart of one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest weaknesses, the voters’ perception of her honesty. Poll numbers show that Sanders is dominating among voters when it comes to trust and honesty, and a full and very public recounting of possible impropriety in Iowa could very much hurt the Clinton campaign. If Sanders is able to hold on and achieve the resounding victory in New Hampshire that polls are calling for, he could enjoy a few media cycles of bad new for the Clinton campaign at a time when he desperately needs momentum heading into votes in South Carolina.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]