Editor’s Note: Arick Wierson is an Emmy Award-winning television producer and former senior media adviser to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He currently advises political and corporate clients in the United States, Africa and Latin America. You can follow him on Twitter @ArickWierson. View more opinion at CNN.
Here we go again. On Monday night more election drama unfolded as countless Americans tuned in to their favorite news channels to see who would come out ahead in the country’s first political contest of the 2020 presidential elections. But viewers were sorely disappointed. The nationally televised debacle in Iowa was an unmitigated disaster for the Iowa Democratic Party, the entire reporting process for gathering and tallying precinct voting results appears to have been mired in widespread technical and operational breakdowns.
It would be a mistake to assume that last night’s fiasco will only reflect poorly on local Iowa state Democratic Party officials; the reality is that this breakdown, fairly or not, will confirm many voters’ latent fears and deepest suspicions – that Democrats may have their hearts in the right place, but their ideals often times get in the way of the nuts and bolts of running the government, or in this case, running an election.
Although the Democratic contenders were not the ones responsible for managing the election, those who were heavily staking their presidential aspirations on doing well in Iowa will invariably be caught up in the drama of an intramural party election that went off the rails and will be the ones most hurt by the delay in results.
But the night wasn’t a disaster for all Democrats. In fact, it was a big night for Michael Bloomberg, the technocratic three-term mayor from New York City. Bloomberg, who decided to forego the Iowa contest, is running a self-financed campaign based on the central themes of competence and data – two things that were sorely, visibly lacking in Iowa’s Democratic firmament yesterday.
For the many party faithful who have been asking, “Why do we need Michael Bloomberg?” they now have their answer: Because competence matters.
The Trump campaign wasted no time in seizing upon the Democratic missteps to win some political points. Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale was quick to call the delay in reporting results in Iowa as “the sloppiest train wreck in history.” Questionable metaphors aside, Parscale was quickly connecting the dots for those in both parties still stunned by the delays, asking rhetorically, ” … these are the people who want to run our entire health care system?”
It’s still unknown how long it will be before the party is able to sort through this mess so that an eventual victor can emerge. On Tuesday morning, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said: “While our plan is to release results as soon as possible today, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the integrity and accuracy of the process continues to be upheld.” For some campaigns, such as those of Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang, the news of the delay in reporting the results must have come as somewhat of a reprieve, allowing them to head into New Hampshire essentially level with all the other major candidates. But for Bloomberg, last night proved that the Democratic Party has problems that he is uniquely qualified to solve.
The self-described data nerd – whose longtime motto is “In God we trust. Everyone else bring data” – became a billionaire more than 50 times over by creating a company, the eponymous news and financial data juggernaut Bloomberg, LP, that captures, analyzes, and presents endless amounts of data for global financial markets that is digestible and useful.
This is the same man who came into office as a neophyte Mayor shortly after 9/11 with a plan to create a citizen hotline for all non-emergency questions and complaints by New Yorkers. Seventeen years and reportedly nearly 300 million calls later, Bloomberg’s 311 hotline is a staple of everyday living for New Yorkers and a fine-tuned machine that arms all future mayors and their commissioners with the data they need to effectively manage America’s largest and most complex city.
Bloomberg, who was a rather late entry into the presidential fray, broke with decades of political tradition by making the decision to not compete in the first four early contest states; rather, with a nearly endless war chest at his disposal, he decided to run a national campaign, focusing first on the states and territories that hold Democratic primary elections on Super Tuesday, March 3.
The net effect of delaying the results in Iowa truncates the election calendar, giving victors in the early states less time to leverage the momentum gained before having to go head-to-head with Bloomberg on Super Tuesday.
If Bloomberg is the biggest winner coming out of Monday night’s imbroglio in the heartland, clearly the night’s biggest loser is Bernie Sanders, who was widely expected to come out on top in Iowa, giving him the tailwinds needed to sweep New Hampshire and Nevada by creating “a domino effect,” as Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota predicted at a recent Sanders campaign event.
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Ultimately, the Bloomberg campaign likely wants Sanders to be successful enough to derail the Biden effort, opening up a center lane they can fill. Nonetheless, if Sanders remains delayed in his ability to claim victory in Iowa, it will give the Bloomberg effort that much more time to impress upon their nation the need for not only a new leader in the White House, but a competent one.