The 2020 Iowa caucuses

By Meg Wagner, Amanda Wills, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:14 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020
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4:18 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Democrats who largely skipped Iowa feel validated after chaos

From CNN's Dan Merica in Des Moines

Mary Altaffer/AP
Mary Altaffer/AP

Four of the Democrats who skipped the Iowa caucuses argued today that the chaos that has played out in the first nominating state validates their decision.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard all skipped Iowa for their own reasons, with the most common being that they lacked the support and money to truly compete in the caucus process.

But as results failed to trickle in on last night and into this morning, the different candidates saw validation in the chaos.

“It goes without saying, the events of last night validated our New Hampshire-first approach,” Daniel Barash, Bennet’s campaign manager, wrote in a memo to the senator’s supporters and obtained by CNN.

Bennet has focused squarely on New Hampshire, hoping that a surprising finish in the state will give his campaign life.

“While chaos emerged in Iowa last night, Michael was in New Hampshire holding a town hall and talking to voters,” Barash wrote in the memo that defended the senator’s decision to pivot to New Hampshire over the fall.

“The Iowa caucus was bound to result in a muddled narrative, both because it took place amidst Super Bowl Sunday, the State of the Union, and the impeachment trial, and because it would present multiple “winners” for the first time in history due to new state party rules,” Barash concluded.

Patrick is in a similar position to Bennet, with both Democrats hoping to surprise in New Hampshire.

"One candidate is calling the results into question because he apparently didn’t do well. Another is declaring victory without any votes being confirmed,” Patrick said about the Iowa chaos. “The way to beat Donald Trump isn’t to act like Donald Trump. Our party and our country deserve better."

Gabbard, who spent much of the time in the run up to Iowa in New Hampshire, that, “Thousands of people turned out to cast the first votes of this presidential primary in the Iowa Caucuses last night. Unfortunately, the voices of the people of Iowa have yet to be heard as the vote count continues, leaving voters frustrated and without the transparency and integrity in this process that they expect and deserve.”

“Now our attention turns to New Hampshire,” Gabbard said.

And then there is Bloomberg, who is ignoring the first four states all together and has decided, instead, to commit his massive wealth toward competing in the Super Tuesday and beyond states.

Bloomberg met with his senior leadership team this morning to discuss the chaos in Iowa and subsequently authorized his team to double the amount they are spending on television during that meeting, according to multiple Bloomberg aides.

“Tonight’s confusion is an unfortunate distraction from Democrats’ most important task this year — beating Donald Trump,” Bloomberg’s spokesman Jason Schechter tweeted on Monday night. “Tomorrow Mike will be in Michigan and Pennsylvania continuing to focus on sending Trump packing this November.”

All four of these candidates face significant challenges in the coming weeks, especially Bennet, Patrick and Gabbard, all of whom need to prove they can be electorally viable. But Iowa’s dysfunction has allowed them – at least for now – to claim a small win.

4:04 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Democratic campaign source on delayed, partial release: This is an "abdication of their responsibility"

From CNN's Kyung Lah

A senior Democratic campaign source called the delay in results "completely irresponsible" ahead of the release of more than half of the first Iowa caucus results.

“It is terrible. Completely irresponsible and an abdication of their responsibility," the source said.

Asked about interactions with the Iowa Democratic Party, and on whether the organization is answering questions since last night, the source said, "Very limited. They are hiding the ball.”

4:04 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Confidence level is low for the Iowa Democratic Party

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

One hour before results — finally — are set to begin coming in, the confidence level is low for the Iowa Democratic Party.

Advisers to nearly every presidential campaign told CNN today that they have serious questions about how the results will be released this afternoon. The campaigns are gearing up their war rooms — once again — at this hour to spin the partial results, pointing out that they aren’t geographically representative and they don’t offer a full picture of the statewide results.

Volunteers and staff members have been fanning out, collecting those preference cards that provide a paper trail — the only record of one’s vote.

A team of Democratic activists are canvassing precincts to pick up the records — and reconcile them with their official tally.

What to watch: Is the so-called first wave largely focused on cities? What about rural areas, where delegates are equally important?

Confidence is dramatically shaky. And party officials have yet to show their faces here.

2:28 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

The company behind Iowa app apologizes for problems

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Charlie Neibergall/AP

Shadow Inc., the company behind the app used by Iowa Democrats last night, has apologized in its first public comment about the problems.

“We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers,” the company said in a tweet.

Here's the rest of the company's statement:

"As the Iowa Democratic Party has confirmed, the underlying data and collection process via Shadow’s mobile caucus app was sound and accurate, but our process to transmit that caucus results data generated via the app to the IDP was not.
Importantly, this issue did not affect the underlying caucus results data. We worked as quickly as possible overnight to resolve this issue, and the IDP has worked diligently to verify results.
Shadow is an independent, for-profit technology company that contracted with the Iowa Democratic Party to build a caucus reporting mobile app, which was optional for local officials to use. The goal of the app was to ensure accuracy in a complex reporting process.
We will apply the lessons learned in the future, and have already corrected the underlying technology issue. We take these issues very seriously, and are committed to improving and evolving to support the Democratic Party’s goal of modernizing its election processes."

Some background: The app was built to collect and report the caucus results, but some precinct officials said they had issues reporting the results of their caucuses through the app.

The software issues were the start of a cascading series of problems — including difficulties getting through on the phone to report results after precinct officials had trouble with the app — that led the Iowa Democratic Party to hold off on releasing results last night.

Officials from multiple precincts described to CNN having problems with the app and the reporting process, though some others did say the software performed as needed.

2:17 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Democratic senators criticize the Iowa caucuses

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Democratic senators on Capitol Hill cast doubts on the Iowa caucus following last night's app snafu.

“Yeah I think it needs to be changed,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado and presidential candidate.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate minority whip, told reporters today that “we got to take a look at it as a party,” when asked about the Iowa caucuses. 

“The caucus approach, as curious and quaint and interesting as it is, just runs counter to our basic feelings about voting in this country,” Durbin said.

“To think about the blood, sweat and tears and millions of dollars that went into that Iowa caucus and right now it’s turned into a political asterisk. We just don’t know if it’s going to end up with a credible result and that’s a shame for everyone involved," he added.

Sen. Tim Kaine, the former vice presidential candidate and former Democratic National Committee chair, said what happened in Iowa was “so unfortunate.”

Kaine also scoffed at the notion of just releasing a chunk of the election results tonight (Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson Mandy McClure announced today that they will release "the majority of caucus results" at 5 p.m. ET.)

“I wouldn’t do it," Kaine said. "I think they should wait until they can have 100%. What if they announce 50% and it turns out the second 50% is dramatically different."

2:40 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Sanders says he's "disappointed" with how last night went

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters that he was “disappointed” with how last night went and said it is not good for democracy, especially for people who came out to caucus for the first time.

"Obviously, I am disappointed. I suspect I could speak for all the candidates all of their supporters and the people of Iowa, that the Iowa Democratic Party has not been able to come up with timely election results. I can't understand why that happened but it has happened," he said.

Sanders said it was wrong of Joe Biden's campaign to cast doubts on the results and added that it was wrong for Pete Buttigieg to declare victory last night. Sanders said he thinks turnout will be in line with 2016, and he wished it was higher. Asked how he thinks Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price has handled the situation, Sanders said he has not been talking to Price, and that his senior adviser has.

Asked if he got any sleep last night, Sanders said “not enough.”

Watch here: Democratic candidates react to Iowa chaos

1:52 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Caucus results will come at 5 p.m. ET, Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson says

Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images
Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images

Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson Mandy McClure officially announced in a statement that they will release "the majority of caucus results" at 5 p.m. ET.

"Moving forward — just like we would would have on caucus night — we will continue to release results as we are able to," she said.

McClure continued: "We are also executing our plans and procedures to gather the paper documents and chasing any additional precincts to report results as we normally would on caucus night."

2:27 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Pete Buttigieg claims Iowa victory again

From CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Gene J. Puskar/AP

At his second official campaign stop of the day, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg again claimed victory in Iowa.

“We are still waiting for some math but we have arrived with momentum .... and we’ve arrived victorious,” Buttigieg told the crowd in New Hampshire.

This is the second time Buttigieg has declared victory. Buttigieg claimed victory while speaking to supporters on Monday night. "By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious," he said

In an interview with CNN today, Buttigieg cited his campaign's internal data from the caucuses.

Remember: The outcome of the Iowa Democratic caucuses remains unknown. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price told Democratic campaigns on a call that the "majority of results" will be released by 5 p.m. ET today, a source said.

Watch here: Buttigieg explains why he declared victory in Iowa 

1:01 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Nevada Democrats won't use app at center of confusion

From CNN's Ethan Cohen


The Nevada State Democratic Party released a statement today saying they will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus.

"NV Dems can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada on February 22nd. We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus. We had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward," Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in the statement.

CNN reported earlier that the company that developed the Iowa app had also been contracted to work with the Nevada Democratic Party.