Monday night’s tabulation meltdown at the Iowa caucuses was an utter and unmitigated disaster.
The incompetence was jaw-dropping. Iowa Democratic Party leaders reportedly didn’t train the 1,800 precinct captains how to use the app that they promised would speed up the counting of votes and provide more transparency. They didn’t run a full-scale test in which captains all sent full data sets from their caucus sites in the same hour. Nor did they test the backup phone system to confirm it could handle hundreds of simultaneous calls. And they’d been warned there were problems.
After this debacle, the only way Iowa can keep its privileged status in the presidential selection process is if the responsible state Democratic Party leaders commit hara-kiri. Even then, it might not be enough. How angry must the Democratic candidates be about the time, money and effort they threw into Iowa, only to see it end in this indecisive mess? And what about volunteers who sacrificed months for someone they believe in?
It doesn’t help that, as of Wednesday evening, the results are still a muddle. The first-place finisher will get a smaller percentage of the vote in Iowa than any previous caucus winner and Iowa’s 41 pledged delegates (out of more than 3,000 at the national convention) could be split among a record five candidates.
With 87% of precincts reporting, Bernie Sanders trails Pete Buttigieg in “state delegate equivalents,” a fancy term for each candidate’s share of state convention delegates. Both will likely end up with 13 national pledged delegates from Iowa. Still, they led the field and, by beating expectations, Mr. Buttigieg has picked up a little momentum.
Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had a good night by avoiding the farce entirely. If Mr. Bloomberg, who isn’t competing in early states, has any shot at the nomination, then Joe Biden’s campaign must collapse before Super Tuesday on March 3. Mr. Biden wasn’t expected to win Iowa, but running a dismal fourth hurts.
Since Mr. Biden also isn’t projected to do well in New Hampshire next week, his poor Iowa performance raises the stakes for the Nevada and South Carolina contests later this month. If the former vice president does badly there—especially if he loses the Palmetto State—then his campaign is finished. Watch to see if Mr. Biden’s poor showing in Iowa dents his national polling as the most electable Democrat.
Another winner Monday night was President Trump. The bigger the Iowa mess, the worse the Democratic field looks. That stink won’t last, but Mr. Trump is also coming off several weeks of mostly good news. He signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. The Chinese approved the first phase of a trade deal. His surprise Super Bowl ad highlighting criminal-justice reform in an emotional, personal way unsettled Democratic operatives, portending an electoral play for not only African-Americans but also disaffected suburbanites.
Then came impeachment. As this column forecasted, because Democrats refused to take up the patient work of persuasion and instead bludgeoned and insulted the jury, the process will cost Democrats among independent voters.
The president also keeps getting good news on the economy. It plugs along at a decent pace, with unemployment at a 50-year low, more vacant jobs than job-seekers and wages for workers rising faster than for managers.
The Jan. 15 Gallup poll found 62% of Americans saying the economy is “excellent” or “good” and 59% saying it’s “getting better.” This boosted Gallup’s economic confidence index to its highest level since October 2000. A Jan. 23 ABC/Washington Post poll also found 43% were “very” or “somewhat worried” about maintaining their standard of living, compared with 63% in January 2016, a year before Mr. Trump took office. This led 56% to approve of his handling of the economy, up 10 points since last September. It’s no wonder, then, that Gallup’s latest poll awards the president a 49% job-approval rating, his highest since taking office.
Mr. Trump is also receiving help from his opponents. Until her party settles on a presidential nominee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the country’s highest-profile Democrat. Unfortunately for the party, she recorded a minus-15-point favorability rating in the Jan. 29 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. She didn’t help matters by childishly ripping up her copy of the president’s State of the Union speech on camera, which dominated the post-speech coverage and overshadowed the official Democratic response.
Mr. Trump is on a roll, but there are 271 days left before Election Day. His supporters should remember: What happens the first week of February won’t decide what happens the first Tuesday of November.