The most important task of the Republican Party of Iowa during a presidential caucus cycle is to protect and maintain Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucus status. Operating under the intense scrutiny of the national media demands that the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, as well as the party staff, conduct themselves in a manner that is not only professional, but also unbiased.
Unfortunately, Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn has failed this most basic requirement. In the wee morning hours on January 4th, Matt Strawn declared Mitt Romney the “winner” of the Iowa caucuses even though only eight votes separated Romney and Rick Santorum, and the results were yet to be certified. Now that the votes are actually certified and Santorum is on top, Strawn refuses to declare Santorum the winner.
The Republican Party of Iowa gave the Des Moines Register the exclusive on the certified caucus results. When Chairman Strawn was asked who won the caucuses by Des Moines Register reporter Jenifer Jacobs, Strawn said, “I can’t speculate without documentation from the missing eight [precincts].” The article also credited Strawn with saying; “The muddled results make it impossible to declare a winner.” He also made similar comments in a televised interview with Fox News on Thursday morning.
Strawn’s statement makes it sound as if the results of the caucuses were unable to be certified because of the missing precincts when in fact the results are certified and final. What is missing from the eight precincts is not the results, it’s the documents to verify the results. If the phoned-in vote totals from those eight precincts held up, Santorum’s lead would widen to 69, not the 34-vote lead that was certified. Oddly enough, there was no mention in the Register’s article that the missing precincts would have given Santorum a wider margin of victory.
The certification process that the Republican Party of Iowa went through worked, and worked well. At the end of the certification process 99.5 percent of all precincts submitted their E forms and were able to be verified. While it is not ideal that the forms for eight precincts were never turned in or never filled out, that is a failure at the local level, not at the certification level. Even still, we should not overreact to the missing forms from the eight precincts.
In essence, they are being treated as a spoiled ballot in a general election. Yes, someone tried to vote, but didn’t do it correctly. That doesn’t “muddle” the results as Strawn suggests, it’s just a reality that is found in every election.
Even if you accept Strawn’s statement that the results are inconclusive because of the eight missing precincts, then Strawn himself is to blame because of the inability of the Iowa GOP to collect all of the necessary data. More importantly, it is Matt Strawn’s comments to the Des Moines Register and other media outlets that have cast doubt on the certified results of the caucuses, and nothing else. Even the Republican Party of Iowa’s press release clearly stated that Santorum came out on top of the certified votes, but Strawn refused to stick to the party line when he went before the bright lights and microphones of the media.
Where the fault lies in the fallout of the 2012 Iowa caucus results is at the feet of the party chairman, Matt Strawn. His unwillingness to stand behind the certified results of the caucuses not only reeks of a bias toward Romney, but it has also caused irreparable harm to the institution of the caucuses themselves.
There is no reason for Strawn not to declare Santorum the winner of the Iowa Caucuses. His refusal to do so is inexcusable. For that reason alone, Strawn should either resign as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, or the Iowa Republican State Central Committee should vote to remove him.
Update: Strawn has declared that Santorum the winner of the caucuses on WHO Radio, CNN, and other local outlet. However, his initial statements still cast doubt and caused a major blemish on the Iowa Caucuses and Santorum’s win.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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