- - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Democratic Party’s 2020 Iowa caucus was a little bit like a child’s soccer game: Everybody got a trophy. At least on Monday night in the Hawkeye State, everybody who wanted to be one was a winner.

Among the self-declared winners was the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, Pete Buttigieg. The precocious Mr. Buttigieg claimed he outright won the crucial contest — “tonight, an improbable hope become an undeniable reality,” he thundered at his “victory” party.

Or perhaps it was Sen. Amy Klobuchar from neighboring Minnesota who took the first state of the nominating process. She boasted that the results in Iowa showed that her campaign was “punching above its weight.” Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also trumpeted their performances, as did former Vice President Joe Biden. At one point it seems like basically the only candidate who didn’t annoint himself the winner of the Hawkeye caucus was Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who is allegedly still running for president.

It was a technological snafu of the highest order and grossest embarrassment that allowed multiple candidates to say that it was they who had won caucus. As of Monday night, owing to unspecified, vaguely described snafus, literally no official results had been released. (That’s right: The former mayor declared himself the winner when the returns were sitting firmly at zero percent.) By the middle of the afternoon the next day, there was still no word on who had won, placed or shown.

It appears that a fancy smartphone “app” meant to convey the results from polling stations to the Democratic Party’s headquarters in Des Moines malfunctioned. It’s funny how often technology meant to improve things and make them more efficient actually ends up slowing them down.

The Democratic Party hurt itself badly with the Iowa debacle. Typically, the top two or three candidates could have been assured of that ineffable quality of American politics: Momentum. Candidates Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who finished in the top three with 62 percent of precincts reporting, would normally have received a boost: They would have been hoisted up as winners and given at least a day of free media coverage in which to bolster their name ID and fundraising figures.

But in the event, by the time the Iowa Democrats got around to releasing the results — or at least 62 percent of them — after 5 p.m. Eastern time, President Trump’s State of the Union was at hand. And not only that, but on Wednesday he looks set to be acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial. Any boost that the Democratic winners could have expected was by then gone with the wind.

There may be momentum coming out of Iowa. But it doesn’t belong to the Democrats.

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