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OUR OPINION: Caucus debacle was embarrassment for Iowa

OUR OPINION: Caucus debacle was embarrassment for Iowa

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We may not have learned on Monday night who won the Democratic caucuses, but the loser was clear - Iowa.

To say watching national coverage on Monday evening was an uncomfortable experience is the understatement of understatements. Without question, the optics for our state were awful.

As the hours passed with no reports of results whatsoever, CNN and Fox News anchors, reporters and pundits were left to fill time - and the time was filled with harsh criticisms of and, yes, jokes about Iowa. Over and over again, this basic question was asked: Why do we start the nomination process in this place?

Already facing heat from critics over the state's coveted leadoff position and the complexities/oddities of caucuses from elsewhere in the country, Iowa needed to get this year's Democratic vote right (Republicans held caucuses, too, but the spotlight this time was on Democrats and their wide-open race filled with candidates).

Instead, what happened was disaster.

That isn't the fault of average Iowa Democrats who did what was expected of them as caucus participants, including as volunteers, at individual sites across the state. No, this is on the Iowa Democratic Party.

The IDP blames technology. Well, whatever the reason or excuse, the bottom line is: The state's Democratic Party had four years since the 2016 caucuses to prepare for the big show of 2020 - and it wasn't prepared when the curtain was raised and the time arrived to collect and report numbers.

When everyone here and across America finally learn the final votes, those results will be overshadowed by frustration, anger and conspiracies about how they were tabulated and released. In other words, the Iowa story will be largely negative.

Our state weathered controversial caucus-related storms in the past (including complaints by the Bernie Sanders campaign following Sanders' razor-thin loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic caucuses and incorrect initial reporting of Mitt Romney as the winner over Rick Santorum in the 2012 Republican caucuses) and retained its leadoff status.

However, Iowa may not survive Monday night's embarrassing debacle to lead the nation again in 2024. We fear not only Democrats, but both national parties may, in fact, look elsewhere for a starter state the next time.

For Iowans like us who for decades have taken pride in and fervently defended our state’s honored position as No. 1, that would be a hard pill to swallow, indeed.

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