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January 19th, 2012
 

Chairman Strawn: “Rick Santorum is the Winner of the Iowa Caucus”

It took two and a half weeks and an admittedly ill-advised press release Thursday morning, but the Republican Party of Iowa finally declares Rick Santorum the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucus. Santorum defeated Mitt Romney by 34 votes, with 1766 of 1774 of Iowa’s precinct tabulations being certified by the party.

However, when the RPI announced their totals this morning, they did not proclaim Santorum the winner. Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said he thought the numbers would speak themselves. He admits it was a self-inflicted error.

“So, I’ve spent the better part of the day cleaning up my own mess,” Strawn told TheIowaRepublican.com. The situation was compounded when Strawn appeared on Fox News this morning and gave what he said was “the worst interview of my life.” Once again, Strawn failed to pronounce Santorum the winner.

To make up for his faux pas, he has done a flurry of media interviews throughout the day “just to make sure Iowans understand what the certified vote process is, what the vote total is, and that Rick Santorum was on top by 34 votes,” Strawn said.

“Just to make clear, Rick Santorum is the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucus,” TheIowaRepublican.com asked Strawn. “Yes,” he replied.

Unfortunately, the RPI was unable to certify the vote totals from eight of the 1774 Iowa precincts, despite great effort on the part of RPI staff. “It ranges from everything to someone who lost a form, someone who didn’t return a form, didn’t respond to any calls from us, a county chair,” Strawn said.

Lee County was the primary culprit in the process. Four of the eight precincts that did not return the necessary E Forms required for vote certification were from Lee County. “Two of the forms weren’t filled out. The other two forms, we have no idea,” said Lee County GOP Chairman Don Lucas.

Lucas said the reported vote totals for Lee County on caucus night are accurate and he has the ballots to prove it. However, he does not have the E Forms that are required to certify the vote. “They match up with the ballots,” Lucas said. “I’ve called 30 people to find out which one of them took the forms home, but no one took them.”

Lucas says some people have accused him, or others involved with reporting the votes, with misdeeds. “I’m not going say somebody didn’t pull something crooked behind me. I really don’t think they did.” Lucas adds that as chairman of the county party, he was not backing any candidate until after the primary.

Another precinct that did not turn in its E Form was in Pocahontas County. GOP County Chairman Michael Ryan tells TheIowaRepublican.com that the form was lost and he could not find it. He also confirms that the vote total reported to RPI on caucus night was accurate. Ryan publicly endorsed Michele Bachmann in December.

Altogether the votes from the eight missing precincts would have extended Rick Santorum’s victory over Mitt Romney from 34 votes to 69. RPI officials point out that 99.5% of the state’s precincts submitted the necessary paperwork. Strawn wants to make sure the process is improved upon next time.

“This is an almost exclusively volunteer activity,” Strawn said. “The counties went above and beyond, to our team of five here, trying to track down wayward precincts. Even the night before, we still had 25 precincts outstanding and didn’t know which way the final results were going to fall.”

During a conference call with the GOP state central committee this morning, Strawn said Trudy Caviness from Ottumwa made a very valid point. “We need to use this maybe to scare straight some party leaders, some precinct leaders, about the importance of the job everyone has,” Caviness reportedly said.

Strawn aadded that the RPI staff did four times more caucus training than had ever been done before. “Folks around the state did overwhelmingly a great job,” Strawn said.

Some amount of human error is to be expected when so many people are involved in a process like the Iowa Caucus. Unfortunately for Strawn, this was one of the closest election results in U.S. history, with worldwide attention focused on it. He understands that critics will rip Iowa and the caucus system. As leader of the party, Matt Strawn says he accepts that criticism and he will take the brunt of the blame for any errors.


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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