Caucus fallout. Multiple candidates claiming victories. Others dropping out. The entire caucus process getting more scrutiny. And we're getting insight from political insiders, republican Craig Robinson and democrat Brad Anderson, along with political journalists Kathie Obradovich and Kay Henderson on this edition of Iowa Press.

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For decades Iowa Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than 40 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday, February 5 edition of Iowa Press. Here is Dean Borg.

Borg: We knew Iowa's presidential preference caucuses would answer some questions. That's the purpose. But the spotlight glare is illuminating some lingering questions too, even after the candidates and media have moved further down the campaign trail. Who really won Iowa's democratic caucus? Who won the republicans' numerically and perceptively? Is the homey volunteer staffed caucus process too informal for the increasingly intense expectations? That's just for starters of what we're discussing with the Editor of the Iowa Republican website, Craig Robinson and democrat Brad Anderson. His experience includes directing Barack Obama's Iowa campaign and himself running for Iowa Secretary of State. Gentlemen, welcome back to Iowa Press.

Thank you.

Good to be here.

Borg: And across the table, Des Moines Register Political Columnist Kathie Obradovich and Radio Iowa's News Director Kay Henderson. Kay, right off the bat.

Henderson: Okay. I'm ready.

Borg: Was it an embarrassment or Iowa success?

Henderson: A little bit of both.

Borg: You sound like a candidate.

Henderson: Exactly. Exactly. Been around them a lot. I've learned something. I think though the questions about who won the Democratic Party caucus were in many ways put to rest by a debate that was held in New Hampshire on Thursday night because Bernie Sanders said, "this is being blown out of proportion." And so if he is tamping down the furor about the call for an audit of the Democratic Party results himself I think that sort of puts a halt to the great fervor over the idea that we need to recount these caucuses. On the republican side, of course four years ago there was questions about the count. We now know the count on election night among the republicans and then their certified results by virtue of mostly this new app that was used that collected the raw vote totals along with some that were phoned in. So I think the real answer to your question is, yes.

(laughter)

Borg: Getting back to the question -- I sound like a moderator of a political debate here -- getting back to the question, Kathie.

Obradovich: Yeah, but you know, Dean, on the Bernie Sanders issue he won the caucuses in the sense of he is the candidate who beat expectations. There is no little difference in the numbers that will make things any better for Bernie Sanders than they were on caucus night when he got to stand up and say, it's a virtual tie and we kind of won.

Borg: But what is the perception across the world and the country?

Obradovich: Unfortunately, and I think I'm sorry to say that I think the media perpetuated some misconceptions about the caucus results and what things like coin flips actually mean to the results. And I do think that people got a misconception about how little these little things that came out really actually mean to the final result. So I think that the results will stand and that Iowa does have, every four years there are things that they need to work on, there are things they need to work on again.

Borg: And we'll talk about that as we go along in the discussion. Brad, just the basic question, success or embarrassment?

Anderson: Well, I actually think it is a success in the sense that if you were looking at, on the democratic side a couple of months ago, I was hearing turnout models, Dean, of 60,000 to maybe 150,000. People were saying maybe only 60,000 people would show up. And so you have a caucus night where 171,000 democratic Iowans showed up, an enormous success. Now, of course, it was a close night so like any election, whether it's official or party-run, on a close night you're going to have questions. And I think the Iowa Democratic Party is doing a good job answering those questions. But once they do the results are not going to change.

Obradovich: Some of these questions were the same as came up in 2008, correct?

Anderson: They were and I will tell you, the biggest question for me is venue size. Just personally I was at Perkins Elementary School and we caucused outside in the parking lot in the dark because there wasn't enough room in the gymnasium, 670 people showed up. And so it's a serious issue, it's a safety issue and it is one that needs to be addressed.

Borg: Craig, I don't get anybody saying it is an embarrassment and I'm trying for one from you.

Robinson: I think it's a huge success. Brad mentioned democrat turnout, republican turnout far exceeded anyone's wildest expectations. I felt very -- my prediction was 154,000. I thought I was bullish. We're at over 180,000. I think that's good. But the other thing, the reason why I think Iowans should really pat themselves on the back is, is we took a giant GOP field and we cut it at least in half. We're moving forward with --people used to complain about the straw poll. Well, here's what happens when you don't have that and you let the caucus do it. We cut two-thirds of that field out moving forward making a much more interesting race in New Hampshire.

Borg: And I'm going to ask more about that, Craig. I'm glad you brought that up. But right now I want to take you all back to caucus night and the candidates weren't wasting any time Monday night in claiming victories and escaping a threatening snowstorm, if you remember, moving onto New Hampshire. And we have clips from Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Let's see.

(applause)

Bernie Sanders: As I think about what happened tonight I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment.

(cheering)

Hillary Clinton: To have a real contest of ideas, to really think hard about what the Democratic Party stands for and what we want the future of our country to look like if we do our part to build it. I am a progressive who gets things done for people.

(cheering)

Marco Rubio: They told me that we have no chance because my hair wasn't gray enough and my boots were too high.

(cheering)

Rubio: They told me I needed to wait my turn, that I needed to wait in line. I thank you because tonight we have taken the first step, but an important step, towards winning this election.

Donald Trump: And we will go onto easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up there. Iowa, we love you, we thank you. You're special. We will be back many, many times. In fact, I think I might come here and buy a farm. I love it. Thank you. Thank you everybody.

Ted Cruz: Iowa has sent notice that the republican nominee and the next President of the United States will not be chosen by the media.

(cheering)

Cruz: Will not be chosen by the Washington establishment.

Borg: Brad Anderson, was Hillary Clinton smart in getting out there and claiming victory?

Anderson: I think she was. I think it was a risk certainly. But I think she was smart in getting out there and giving the speech that she gave. I do have to give Chairman Andy McGuire some credit here because she was under enormous pressure to call the race for Hillary and she withheld, even on Tuesday she only, if you noticed she only gave the results, she did not claim a winner or a loser. And so I think she deserves credit, I think Clinton took a little bit of a risk, but campaigns sometimes you need to take a risk and she got out there and she claimed victory, I thought it was smart.

Borg: Is any farmland for sale for Donald?

Robinson: Oh I'm sure someone has some that they would gladly sell at the right price.

Borg: Okay. What did you think about -- there was talk of the establishment, we beat the media establishment, we beat the establishment of insiders --

Robinson: I don't know if that is necessarily what happened in Iowa. You look on the republican side, we advanced three candidates, strong social conservative, a complete outsider in Donald Trump and then a more mainstream republican in Marco Rubio. Those three move forward. I think it was clear that we did. And so there's a little bit of something for everyone coming out of Iowa.

Obradovich: Dean, out of those five speeches we only heard one concession speech, everybody else was basically claiming victory in one form or another, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton victory in the final result, Bernie Sanders in the beating expectations victory. Same with Ted Cruz, he won the caucuses and beat expectations because he came from behind from what the polls were predicting from Donald Trump. And then Marco Rubio who, again, he performed better than his poll numbers. Most polls had him in third place, that's where he finished, but he came in with a head of steam and beat expectations. Donald Trump was the only one I think who was sort of conceding that he didn't win.

Borg: And who would have thunk?

Obradovich: Yes, a humble, humble speech from Donald Trump of all people. That was amazing.

Henderson: It was almost as if he realized that Iowa is a swing state and I might not want to give Iowans a bad impression as I leave because if I'm the nominee I have to come back here and win votes in November.

Obradovich: The how stupid are Iowans phrase was not heard.

Anderson: Can I weigh in one second on this expectations thing because I think that is an important point. And what was remarkable about this, about that night, was if you had asked anyone on the democratic side, if there's 170,000 people that turned out it is going to be an amazing night for Bernie Sanders. And 170,000 people turned out and Hillary Clinton won the caucuses. No one laid out that scenario early on. And so I think if you're talking about winners and losers certainly her winning Polk County the way she did and the campaign that she ran was just brilliant and she deserves credit for that.

Robinson: We had the same thing on the republican side. If you would have said 180,000 people caucus, everyone would have thought Donald Trump blows the doors off this thing. He didn't. Ted Cruz not only won it, I mean 51,000 votes is a huge number to put up.

Borg: But doesn't that, Kathie, speak to the demographics of the turnout?

Obradovich: Yeah and so interesting demographics here. There were a lot of first-time voters, first-time caucus goers on both sides. There were a lot of young people on both sides. And Bernie Sanders, for example, on the democratic side won hands down with any caucus goer under 44. But Hillary Clinton made it up in other demographics. Yes, there was a gender gap there. But Hillary Clinton did well with women and Bernie Sanders did well with men.

Henderson: And there were 43% of the people who participated in the republican caucuses said going in they were first-time caucus goers, which is a pretty remarkable number, number one. Number two, 63% of the people going into the caucuses on the republican side said they were evangelical Christians. What is really fascinating about that is if you look at the entrance poll data, Rubio, Trump and Cruz sort of split that up evenly and then Dr. Carson got about 10% of it.

Borg: Brad, we're all sitting here, you among them, crowing about the turnout and the number of people who turned out taking credit for it and said, Iowa did a good job. But the apparatus wasn't prepared for that kind of a turnout. And that leads me to ask, is the weight of attention that comes worldwide, media and everybody else, people traveling out here from New York just to observe what's going on, just as observers on the street, is the weight that is placed on the Iowa Caucuses too great for the informal apparatus that it has to give those results?

Anderson: I think that's a fair question. I don't think the weight is too great. I think Iowa has proven that it can handle the spotlight.

Borg: Are you kidding?

Anderson: Years in the past and I think once again. But what I do think needs to be addressed are some of these logistical challenges because I think certainly some of these precincts just have gotten too big.

Borg: But you can't -- I heard of caucuses in parking lots.

Anderson: I caucused in a parking lot. I think we need to address that.

Anderson: That needs to be addressed. I think voter registration forms, running out of voter registration forms needs to be addressed. But if you look at it as a whole, you look at the what happened on caucus night and the way it was viewed, at the end of the day if you address all of these concerns the results are not going to change. And so I think it is fair to say, okay, some of these things need to change moving forward. I think the Democratic Party honestly should consider, at least consider a straw poll format like the republicans do because the one thing --

Henderson: What about the precinct chair situation? There were people who were leading the caucuses on the democratic side who had no training.

Obradovich: I was going to ask you about that.

Anderson: Well, the one thing that is troubling is in a close race there should be some kind of recount procedure. And right now, because of the way it is done on the democratic side, it's just not possible. We don't have ballots. And so for that first alignment when you get in there, there is no official count. So I think we need to form a commission that takes a look at it, the same way the republicans did in 2012. I think they are very fair questions. But I think at the end of the day this process is one that makes Iowa the center of attention and we have always handled the spotlight fairly well.

Robinson: I think we handled the spotlight really well. But I do think that there -- close elections always magnify the problems and I would hope that and I think that the parties need to work together for the next four years, not just in the year of the caucus, and I think there are things that they could do together. There needs to be some existing infrastructure built. That's my problem is all the eyes of the world are on us for this one night and we're putting things together for one-time use. And I think there needs to be more of a long-term infrastructure built. What that looks like I'm not quite sure. But I think that way there's some reliability in our reporting systems and it's not just the tabulation of the results that I think were fixed. We have a huge problem I think with sign-in and registration where you go to my caucus, we just have the list that we printed out a month ago of the republicans. And so we had 200 people in my precinct in Ankeny that had to re-register. That's a huge logistical problem that I think we need to do what we did for the results, we need to do with registration at your caucus sites.

Obradovich: I agree with that. And I actually think that technology, which helped on the back end with the counting and reporting, could actually help a lot with that sign-in. I can envision people walking into their caucus and not only having their registration scanned and automatically updated but also maybe electronically marking them and so you can do like they did in a marathon where you tie something to your shoelace and cross the line and you get automatically counted. I think that we need to expand our idea of what technology can help us do.

Robinson: And again, the reason we need to be doing this, we need to be thinking about this long before it is caucus year and that is why I think we've got to sit down and use all four years before the next one to really implement change.

Borg: Brad, before we go to Kay, and I'm going to ask her about Iowa performing its role, something that you have addressed already, Craig. Are you predicting that the Democratic Party is going to take what happened caucus night and that a commission may be established?

Anderson: Yeah. I've talked to Chairman McGuire and I think she's looking at it. And from what I can tell, the people I've talked to, there are already talks in what that commission is going to look like and there are already very specific things that we need to address. I think, as I mentioned, just the logistics of things, just space allocation and the way precincts are formed and this is a volunteer-run election essentially. And so the nightmare scenario of course is you've got a close night run by 1,681 volunteers. That ended up happening. And so it is never going to be perfect but I think there are some serious things we need to look at.

Borg: Kay, the question, and Craig alluded to it earlier, said we did our job in Iowa, we winnowed the field. Did we really winnow the field? We may have, a few dropped out afterwards, but a lot more moved on down the trail.

Henderson: Well, I don't think we'll fully know what the impact of the Iowa Caucus results are until the results of the New Hampshire Primary because there is a fierce contest among people who frankly didn't stay around on caucus night, people like Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Chris Christie. They're counting on something happening for them in New Hampshire and in South Carolina to insert themselves back into the race. You heard Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann on the show a few days ago say, our role is not to pick the nominee, our role is to winnow the field.

Obradovich: I do think the one interesting thing that happened was that mainstream republican candidates didn't put a lot of effort into Iowa thinking this was going to be an evangelical contest. What they didn't count on I don't think is Donald Trump getting in there and getting the mainstream vote. And had they got in there and seriously competed with him for that mainstream vote, maybe they could have knocked him out of the top three.

Robinson: My mailbox disagrees. The amount of Jeb Bush mail I got.

Bush: Well that brings up the question though that I'm going to ask and that is, were there some candidates that misjudged Iowa, that now in retrospect either misspent their resources or misjudged Iowa?

Robinson: I think completely. I look at Jeb Bush's candidacy, I saw him in Ankeny three or four weeks ago and I was impressed by him. I thought he did a really nice job, came off very well, had a nice event. And for a second I kind of felt guilty. I'm like, why haven't I covered him? Well, he hasn't been here. And I think the campaign that Jeb Bush ran was wrong. I think he needed to run much more like Mitt Romney in '07, '08 where get out there, really mix it up with people, let them get to know you so then your last name might not be as big of a factor. Instead he tried to run a campaign based on all of his financial advantages and it didn't work.

Henderson: I think the problem with Jeb Bush is that I'm not sure in a year in which Hillary Clinton is running on the other side that he would have ever broken through because of his name. I think that republicans did not want to choose somebody to go up against Clinton that would be sort of a rematch. I think they were just, I think if had run and Hillary Clinton was not running on the opposite side that he would have had a better path.

Robinson: I don't disagree but I think the only way that you break through this Bush fatigue thing is to build real meaningful relationships with the voters and that takes time, that takes personal connection --

Obradovich: I agree with that. But there were mainstream candidates that didn't have that sort of stigma. John Kasich, for example, substantially gave Iowa a pass. Couldn't he have come in and if he had spent the time here perhaps maybe captured a share of that mainstream republican vote that went to Donald Trump?

Robinson: But it's not just the pass they gave during the election cycle. You look at Bush and Kasich, they weren't here in 2014 helping out in a U.S. Senate race, they were nowhere to be found. And so I just think that we give a little too much attention to those who might have a different strategy. Chris Christie spent plenty of time here, especially if you count the entire last six years. So I think they played in Iowa as well as they could.

Borg: Kay, we had more polls this time than I think I have ever remembered before. Maybe it is the technology.

Henderson: Trying to forget them, yeah.

Borg: Right. But did they contribute? Did they get it right?

Henderson: Well, one of the things about polls is that it is an expectations game. And so expectations were set by these polls. And Kathie can speak more directly to the polling because her institution is aligned with a big poll in Iowa. I will say that I think it's going to get harder and harder for pollsters to find people because they're calling cell phones and people don't answer their cell phones.  So I think this is something that the polling world is going to address after this cycle because we've seen some unusual polling results.

Obradovich: 45% of republicans in the entrance poll said they decided within the last week, 22% of democrats decided within the last week. That tells you the polls are going to have a very, very difficult time when people are deciding at the last minute. If they decide after you get out of the field there's not much you can do.

Robinson: I wrote an article about how, and I fit this mold, is that I saw turnout at my caucus site and it altered what I was going to do. And I think people are that savvy that you see the turnout and you think you know what that means, that might change your decision-making process.

Henderson: For instance, the entrance polls show that Trump was going to win and he didn't.

Obradovich: Yeah and he didn't.

Henderson: Because people got in that room, because they got in the room and maybe there wasn't a Trump person to speak in their precinct or the Trump person who spoke they had no idea who it was and had no influence in the community.

Borg: Brad, did Iowa parochial issues fail this time? I'm talking about ethanol but there may be others. Other people are trying to leverage the Iowa Caucuses to bring up specific Iowa issues. Did that fail?

Anderson: It's funny because you could make a case that it did fail. And obviously there was a time where Ted Cruz was cruising to victory and then he stumbled and it was really because of ethanol, a lot of people point to that he stumbled. Now, I will say, if Ted Cruz is the nominee and he is anti-RFS, what I ask is respectfully they not make a jobs argument about Iowa because we're talking about 77,000 Iowa jobs on the line and it's laughable if he thinks that he can make some kind of jobs argument when he's anti-RFS.

Borg: Craig, just quickly, implications for Steve King, Terry Branstad on that?

Robinson: Yeah, look, I think it's interesting. Obviously the Governor made this kind of personal against Ted Cruz. I think that kind of hurts him a little bit. But even though King was on the winning side, I think he comes out of this damaged as well where you have people talking about potentially a primary challenge and all that. I don't think anyone really benefits from what went on.

Henderson: What about the argument that the party has moved away from Terry Branstad? If you look at the results, he said, I want Ted Cruz defeated. He wins and he secretly was a Christie person.

Robinson: I think, well look, I think that always kind of has existed in the past. But I don't know if it has moved away from Terry Branstad. But there is a complete difference between campaigning and governing. I think Terry Branstad is a good Governor, not necessarily always a great campaigner.

Borg: 15 seconds, your favorite memory, Kathie.

Obradovich: Oh gosh. I loved the people who came into Iowa just to view the caucuses. I had a guest from the Netherlands who was delightful, got to fall in love with Iowa and the Iowa Caucus process. It was great to watch this through his eyes.

Borg: Thanks to all of you for your memories here and for your insights. We appreciate it. Next week, another edition of Iowa Press, 7:30 Friday night and noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg and we'll see you next week.

(music)

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