Iowa Confusion: What Does It Mean for 2020 N.H. Primary Campaigns?

Feb 3, 2020

Transcript
  Monday night, Feb. 3, 2020 was caucus night in Iowa, but despite promises of transparency, confusion reigned in reporting results and no winner was declared.  We discuss issues coming out of the Iowa caucuses, how the 2020 Democratic campaigns react, and how the lack of clarity coming out of Iowa impacts the landscape for the New Hampshire primary.   Air date: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020

 

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Listen to NHPR's podcast Stranglehold, on the history of the N.H. primary.

How the Iowa caucuses gained its position in the presidential election process:

Transcript

This is a machine-generated transcript and contains errors.

Laura Knoy:
I'm Laura Knoy. and this is The Exchange. In a normal presidential campaign year, candidates fly out of Iowa in the wee hours of the morning after the Iowa caucuses, retooling their messages based on how they did in the Hawkeye State, but what the candidates say when they have no idea what the results were. As you probably heard already, the Iowa caucuses ended with no clear numbers on who received those coveted first, second and third spots. Today, on The Exchange, what happened in Iowa, how the candidates have reacted and how it might affect their campaigns here in the Granite State.

Laura Knoy:
We have a panel of New Hampshire guests, but we're going to begin with two who've been in Iowa.

Laura Knoy:
We're joined by Chris Larimer, political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. And Chris, welcome. Thank you for being with us. We know it is a late night. You're welcome. And joining us by phone from Manchester is Jess Bidgood. She's a national political reporter for The Boston Globe. And she just got back from Iowa where she was reporting on the caucuses. And just really nice of you to take time out as well. We appreciate it.

Jess Bidgood:
Absolutely. I'm so happy to be here.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Chris, you're there in Iowa. What are people saying this morning?

Chris Larimer:
Well, I think there is seems to be a lot of frustration going around and a lot of questions going around about what this means for the state and what it means for Iowa nationally going forward for the next presidential election cycle. I think people are just. A little shocked, I guess, that that we're we're in this position right now. I think for a lot of people there was concern going into caucus night about how the new process would work. And, you know, this was kind of the worst nightmare that we don't have any results just yet.

Laura Knoy:
What was behind that nightmare? Chris, I know this has been reported a lot, but I'd love your take on it.

Chris Larimer:
Well, you know, we're hearing a lot of different things and initially was talking about the new app that those who were running, the caucus chairs who are running their caucuses, we're having issues with the app. And then we also heard that there was an issue with the call-in where you were calling in the results for the delegates for each one of those sixteen hundred plus precincts. But I think part of it, too, is just dealing with a new process where you had new rules. Last night they were supposed to be reporting three different sets of results in terms of the first preference group, the final alignment and then the state delegate equivalent. That required extra time to do the extra counting and to match up the preference. There was also the use of, I should say, preference cards as backup. So there was a paper trail. So a number of different things, I think just sort of all seem to come together. And you had rule changes as well where the people who were if they were in a viable group, they could change groups at that point, different times in between alignments than there has been in the past. So I think, seemed to be just everything coming together last night.

Laura Knoy:
What we're behind some of those new processes, Chris, why did the state Democratic Party even decide to put these new processes in place?

Chris Larimer:
Well, this comes from after the 2016 election where Bernie Sanders was pretty upset with the way things unfolded. I think in Iowa, where Hillary Clinton was declared the winner on caucus night. But really the difference in the state delegate equivalents was that, you know, about a about 1 percentage point, if that. And really, when you get down to looking at the caucuses and looking at how those state delegate equivalents are calculated, they're based on initial preference group numbers that then go to final preference group numbers. And those numbers can be a little bit different than, say, delegate equivalent in terms of actual candidate strength. And so the Sanders campaign really wanted more transparency regarding the caucus process. The National Democratic Party agreed that the process needed to be more open and transparent. And so they asked for changes for any states that were holding caucuses in 2020. Iowa initially tried to do virtual caucuses. That was their initial proposal, and those, the Democratic parties said no, the National Democratic Party said no to for concerns about cyber security. So we went to these other rule changes dealing with satellite caucuses and then the rule changes with with now, you know, we were supposed to be reporting an initial preference groups, final preference groups, and then the state delegate equivalent. And so that's where all this is coming from. It really kind of goes back at least to 2016 in terms of trying to be more open about the process.

Laura Knoy:
So the cure ended up being worse than the disease. Chris?

Chris Larimer:
Well, so far, we're definitely having some issues, getting some, anything reported out.

Laura Knoy:
Well, just want to bring you into this, too. So when did you leave Iowa for New Hampshire? First of all.

Jess Bidgood:
That is a wonderful question. I cover the Elizabeth Warren campaign. And so I was at her results watching party in in Des Moines and till about midnight. And then the Warren plane that took took off with Warren and and and and some of the press corps that covers her, I would say around 1:00 local time and landed in Manchester at 4 about, right about 4:15 AM. So nobody expected. I think that we would be landing in New Hampshire without knowing the results in Iowa. But here we are.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. So you landed at 4:00 a.m. in Manchester with the Warren campaign as part of the press. Obviously, no part of the campaign itself. What were people on the plane saying, either other members of the press Jess or members of the Warren campaign?

Jess Bidgood:
All night, beginning at the victory party or the result watching party was a lot of general confusion, I think. I mean, for those of us who are not in Iowa all the time, the caucuses are confusing enough to begin with. I mean, it's a very different system than what you use here in New Hampshire and other primary states where you have a fairly a simpler one person, one secret vote. So we had all been, I think, boning up on on the caucus rules and how it works and what we we're expecting to see. And then, of course, it really started to feel very chaotic. When we got off the plane. Warren spoke briefly with reporters and she said, well, when we left Des Moines, I said it was too close to call and it still is. But she said she feels good. And she says that her organizers are ready to deploy in the 31 states cross-country, where she has where she where she has people. But I think a lot of people were looking forward to yesterday as the first chance to finally get a little bit of clarity on what has been a very fluid and super dynamic presidential campaign.

Jess Bidgood:
I mean we started with know some two dozen candidates beginning last year. And I think everybody was really hungry, too, to get a little bit of insight into two questions about electability and and the strengths of different candidates. And the picture this morning is muddled in a way that I think nobody wanted it to be. Not the candidates, not the not not the voters and definitely not the party officials in Iowa.

Laura Knoy:
Well, perhaps an even more golden opportunity for New Hampshire to weigh in. And I have two New Hampshire guests with me that we will talk to in just a moment. But I want to spend a few more minutes talking about Iowa. What happened and where this might go from here. And Chris Larimer, back to you. You know, Jess raised this. And you and I have talked before about the longstanding criticism of the caucus process. It's not inclusive people say, it requires voters to travel to a specific spot, spend a couple hours there, you know, shutting out anybody who might have young children at home or someone who works as a waitress or someone who works in the E.R., you know, you just can't leave that job to to caucus. Is this failure last night in Iowa, the beginning of the end for your caucuses there?

Chris Larimer:
Well, I think for a lot of people, that's the real concern. As you said, those criticisms about the caucus not only what Jess talked about, in terms of, you're right. It is a very complex process. It was complex before last night. And then we had all these new changes. But as you said, you know who can attend? I mean, if you look at attendance at or turnout at the caucuses, it's typically in the past, at about 25 to 30 percent of registered party members, if you look at it in terms of proportion of people who actually show up in the November general election, the turnout rate is typically pretty low or small slice of the electorate.

Chris Larimer:
But this cycle, you also had candidates openly, you know, criticizing the caucuses in Julian Castro and others. You know, you had a candidate like Michael Bloomberg who just flat out skipped Iowa and then you have this problem with the process. And in the caucuses, we've had this before. If you go back to 2012, where the Republican caucuses, where Mitt Romney was declared the winner on caucus night and then, you know, a little over two weeks later, they do the recount where Rick Santorum is the winner. But that's already after the New Hampshire primary. So this is another criticism and an example people are gonna use to say that Iowa should not go first. I think the only maybe saving grace for Iowa right now is how does the National Party decide on if it's not Iowa, then what state goes first? Or do we just moved to New Hampshire? I mean, because that's going to be a difficult discussion as well.

Laura Knoy:
And I know you've been asked this before, Chris, but you know, again, after all this and you're alluding to this, should Iowa just give up on this caucus thing. It was confusing before last night, and now it just seems like a total mess. Could you just give up and do regular elections with ballots and polling places and so forth?

Chris Larimer:
I don't know. I don't think we should give up on it in the Democratic and Republican Party we have to remember they do their caucuses very differently for the Republicans it is basically a straw poll. Candidates or surrogates will come in and give a statement and then the caucus attendees will just write the names of their preferred candidates on a on a piece of paper.

Laura Knoy:
And then go home? They don't have to hang around like they do for Democrats.

Chris Larimer:
Right. They do some party business and elect delegate or, you know, people to the county central committees. But essentially, they can go home after that. For the Democratic Party, there there is concern there, but I think the caucuses are unique. They do add something unique to the presidential nominating process. But obviously the procedures last night, you know, what was attempted did not work. And so, you know, there are going to be some serious discussions going forward about what, if the Iowa caucuses want to remain first what do we need to do, what is the party, I should say, they need to do to keep it first.

Laura Knoy:
And again, I want to remind you that you can join us with your comments and questions about what happened in Iowa last night and its impact on the New Hampshire primary, which kicks into high gear today as a New Hampshire voter. How do you weigh all of this, what happened in Iowa? And do you think Iowa and New Hampshire should continue to play such an important role like they do right now?

Laura Knoy:
Alex from Epsom writes I want to say that I'm grateful to have a voice in choosing the parties nominees for president. Citizens of countries like the UK and Canada don't get to choose their party leaders who then become the prime minister. We should take pride as Americans that the party system is as open as it is. Alex, thank you for for weighing in on that. Mike in Gilford says, My belief is that the biggest risk to Iowa and New Hampshire's first in the nation status is not another state going forward, but irrelevance based on digital media, DNC debate rules leading to early culling of candidates and the risk of not producing a clear winner and giving a candidate new life or momentum. Mike says Iowa was most at risk due to the arcane caucus process. More pressure on New Hampshire now not to mess up. Thanks to Alex and Mike and to you Jess, on that point that Mike makes, no pressure on New Hampshire not to mess up. How do you see it?

Jess Bidgood:
I think that is absolutely correct. And I think it also puts more pressure on the candidates to do well in New Hampshire. What ever was, whenever we get the results from Iowa, all of this confusion is going to hang over those results. It's always going to be, I think, an asterisk when you say, here's what the results were, that's always going to kind of be lingering there. I think this increases the pressure on everybody to perform really well here so that they can claim momentum in a primary state that did not have these kinds of issues, as they go on to Nevada and South Carolina, which are both, I think, also going to be turned up in importance in the primary process.

Laura Knoy:
How do you think, Jess, candidates? I mean, obviously, they're upset because they spent a lot of time and a lot of money in Iowa and so far don't have much to show for it. But how do you think they feel about the opportunity that this might present them in New Hampshire?

Jess Bidgood:
I think that's a good question. I mean, right now they are handling this in different ways. The Sanders campaign went and put out some internal data that they had that they said was kind of a, they claimed that it was a representative cross-section of about 40 percent of precincts. They put that data out and they said it showed that they won. I think you have to take it with a grain of salt when a candidate is putting out their own data saying they won. A giant, giant grain of salt. The Buttigeig campaign went and put out some of their own data that showed Buttigeig doing better than what's, how he performed in the Sanders data that went out. Amy Klobuchar's campaign went, campaign manager, went on Twitter and suggested that she could be running even or even ahead of Vice President Biden. And what's happened is a kind of like choose your own adventure ending to last night. And I caution anybody to be really careful looking at those results that came from the candidates, because with a paucity of information from the party of actual results, from the party, we really don't know anything, but that will not stop candidates from trying to, you know, push out a certain narrative that benefits them in in some way.

Laura Knoy:
Well,Jess, that's a great analogy. And my kids loved those books when they were little, right like choose your own ending. Since you mentioned that, I do want to play reaction from the candidates last night. This audio courtesy of CNN, sort of how they spun what happened in Iowa and what it means for their campaigns here.

audio clip:
We don't know the results. We know by the time it's all said and done, Iowa, you have shocks the nation. Because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.

audio clip:
We know there's delays, but we know one thing. We are punching above our weight.

audio clip:
Over that first debate stage, there were 20 candidates they had to break it up into two nights. And I'm going right from here to New Hampshire, where I will be one of the seven candidates on the debate stage on Friday night in New Hampshire.

audio clip:
We're going to walk out of here with our share of delegates. We don't know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are. And, look so, it's on to New Hampshire.

audio clip:
This race started right here in Iowa. But from tomorrow, it will run from ocean to ocean, east to New Hampshire and then west to Nevada and then down to South Carolina.

audio clip:
Now it is on the New Hampshire. Nevada, South Carolina, California. And onward to victory. Thank you all very much.

Laura Knoy:
Ok. Again, that audio from CNN. That was Pete Buttigeig, Amy Klobuchar. Andrew Yang, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders talking about their excitement, their prospects and how they are going to manage this message of mixed results in Iowa. Coming up, we'll talk with two New Hampshire guests and get a lot more of your reaction. But for now, Chris Larimer, get some rest. We really appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
You're welcome.That's Chris Larimer, political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. And Jess Bidgood, a really big thank you to you as well. We appreciate your time. That's Jess Bidgood national political reporter for The Boston Globe. She's in Manchester, as we heard. She just got back from Iowa where she was reporting on the caucuses. Coming up, your chance to weigh in on what we saw in Iowa. What it means for New Hampshire.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. for presidential candidates, it's on to New Hampshire from Iowa and they are here already after a late night and a mess in the Hawkeye State. We're looking at how candidates will respond here in the Granite State and what this might mean for ongoing criticism of Iowa and New Hampshire's first places in our country's nominating process. With me in studio, Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. And Ray, welcome back. Nice to see you. Great to be here. Also with us, Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, which hosts that New Hampshire debate that was referenced earlier Friday night just before the primary. Neil, we know you're busy. Thank you very much for being here. Well, both of you, let's kick it off with a phone call. And John is waiting in Manchester. Hi, John. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
Well, two points. The first one is, I think it's obvious. Iowa has lost first, that status. They can no longer be allowed to run that, the debacle last night. And unfortunately, I think they're going to take New Hampshire down with them just in terms of how the media were talking about it last night in terms of states of representation. And secondly, I just have to say, what has happened with the DNC and with this app. Attached to the app are names. It's like a banana republic. . . Oh, you know, these characters that we stuck with, which we've seen. Mook, you know, Robby Mook is back in the background there. These are people that aren't even elected and they're manipulating and disenfranchising every voter under 40 who no longer can trust that party to look out for their interests. We're going to lose to Trump because the DNC. Thank you

Laura Knoy:
John. Thank you so much. And a lot of passion in his voice and lots of questions from your call, John. So thank you very much. And radio first, your broad reaction and again to some of the specifics John mentions, but your broad reaction from both you and Neil to what we saw last night in Iowa?

Ray Buckley:
Well, obviously, we had thought that there would be an immediate result. This is the first time that Iowans had to report all three numbers. It was part of that Unity, Unity Reform Commission report that the DNC voted on two years ago. And we have plenty of time to do an autopsy on exactly what happened and how it was connected. But I have full faith that once everything is released, that there'll be clear. And there are paper ballots out there. That's how they vote. There's certainly enough to take a look at every single thing. So there's not going to be any question about rigging or anything like that.

Laura Knoy:
Because there is a paper trail. Ok. Go ahead, Neil.

Neil Levesque:
I couldn't help but think about the Democrat out there that really is passionate about this election and the fact that they've had disappointment in the fact that Trump won in 2016. Then we had the Mueller report, which was certainly sort of deflated the Democrats at that point. Now we have the impeachment, which is obviously going to turn out in a way that the Democrats don't like. The president likely to sort of have a sort of a victory lap tonight at the State of the Union. And now with Iowa not sort of bringing us to any kind of closure to what's been going on in this election. So you've got to feel sort of, a little bad. But here we are now moving on in New Hampshire. It's a totally different race here. It's a state-run race. We have a great secretary of state who, you know, he's been very traditional about the way he's conducted these elections. And this is going to sort of change now to a series of sort of events, major events going into next week and then, of course, a private ballot that you get to choose and a state-run election - very, very different than a party-run election.

Laura Knoy:
So you're reflecting on an understanding, Neil, where our callers frustration comes from. It's been a a down couple weeks for Democrats. And this just seems like one more sort of, you know, kick in the gut.

Neil Levesque:
Absolutely. And, you know, I hear about political frustrations all day long. There's people who are very passionate now about politics and they feel that they're not being heard or something's going wrong and they're not. And there's no accountability. And so the good thing about elections is they help sort of help clear that up and you get to put your energy into them. And so with last night with what happened is sort of just the deflation of that. You don't really get to see who who gets who won from all of this.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and Ray, for decades, the New Hampshire and Iowa Democratic parties have been joined at the hip, defending their status as the two firsts in the nation lineup. Is it time for New Hampshire to break up with Iowa to preserve our own place in line?

Ray Buckley:
Well, I think that we're not even 24 hours from the closure of of the caucuses. I think it's premature to jump to any conclusions that that this was anything other. I think I want to just concur with Neil that what we do here in New Hampshire is a completely different system. You know, we have not just registered Democrats, but any independent and any unregistered person that wants to register same day registration can vote and participate. And we have hundreds of thousands of people that turn out here in Hampshire. We have obviously a paper trail as well with paper ballots. So people should have complete confidence. And what's happening in New Hampshire until we really hear exactly what's going on in Iowa. I don't think that anyone should be jumping ahead.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and even before this failure in Iowa, many in your party around the country, Ray, have been criticizing the outsized role that New Hampshire and Iowa play in our country's nomination process, especially for Democrats, a party that prides itself on diversity. What's your case? Chairman Buckley, chairman of the party, that New Hampshire should still go first?

Ray Buckley:
Well, it's not just I'm in New Hampshire, it's Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And they were added. So it's four early states not two any more. And this is, will have been, our third cycle with the our other two sister states. I'll be going out to once again help conduct caucuses in Nevada and heading down to South Carolina as well. So the reason that Nevada and South Carolina were added were because of the diversity in those states, so that we do have those. So we have where a huge percentage of the Nevada caucus goers are Hispanic. And in South Carolina, the majority of Democrat primary voters are African-American. So their voices are all being heard very strongly. So we have a, you know, a state in the West, Midwest, East and in the South, so that all four sections of the state of the country are being heard. So I think that when you stand back and you look at the four early states, I think collectively they are pretty reflective.

Laura Knoy:
Well, still, there's nothing like going first.And we have seen candidates drop out of the race after a failure in Iowa or New Hampshire, whereas perhaps if the first state that went with South Carolina or Illinois or Florida, it might be different. You see what I'm saying, Chairman Buckley? There is something magic about going first.

Ray Buckley:
I don't think it'd be that particularly different, because if you looked at the polling, those individuals that that did drop out already, we're doing even more poorly in Nevada and South Carolina. So I think that that you have to just stand back, take a look at the whole. This is a system that has worked well. Let's find out what happened in in Iowa. And, you know, for those who are so passionate about ranked-choice voting, this is what ranked-choice voting is like in Maine. It took a matter of a couple of weeks to find out who the, you know, the member of Congress was or who the Democrat nominee for governor was going to be. I mean, that's that's the process of having to do this. But when they added on, they had to list all three of the results. We knew that there would be an issue. We just didn't believe that it was gonna be this big of an issue.

Laura Knoy:
And just a reminder that the Iowa Democratic Party has said that, quote, While our plan is to release results as soon as possible today, our ultimate goal is to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the process to be upheld. That's from a statement from the Iowa Democratic Party. And that's to Jonathan's concern that some of the results might be funny or not accurate and so on and so forth. Martha in Lebanon sent us an e-mail. She says reports indicate that the Iowa problem is not in the caucus system nor in the counting system, but in the reporting of the results. Is this correct, Neil? Again, you're New Hampshire guy, but can you send it shed new light on that, please?

Neil Levesque:
Well, early reports are that the new app that they were using, new technology, they knew possibly two weeks ago that it wasn't working correctly. So it was a way to call in your results if the app didn't work. And this is a whole new system. I think what it does is, it's actually not a damning necessarily of Iowa. It is a damning of, we always have to have a new idea and a new way to do it, just like my daughter's downloading brand new music all the time with a new app every week. The point is, is that sometimes doing it the way we've always done it, works. And maybe we should stick with the way things work. And that's what we do in New Hampshire. And so I'm looking forward to the next week. And I think that, you know, the next week is really going to show that there's a lot of diversity in New Hampshire, a lot of diverse ethnic backgrounds, social backgrounds. And I'm looking forward to the fact that there's different people in the state are all gonna come together and participate in a statewide election.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Martha, thank you for the email. Ray, both you and Neil have talked about, you know, the integrity of our elections, the paper ballot. It's a regular old election. You don't have to stand around and caucus for anybody. You just go to the polls, cast your ballot and go home. But last night's outcome in Iowa does seem to increase concerns about how elections are run again. Obviously, here in Hampshire, we're not a caucus. There is some concern, though, that we talked about yesterday on The Exchange that our secretary of state's office has downplayed the threat to election security this year, has not engaged in some of the practices that experts say would help, such as audits. What do you think? Ray, do you share the concerns that some people are voicing this year about elections, security, and that New Hampshire could take some more steps toward that end?

Ray Buckley:
I guess one could consider that we could take infinite numbers of steps. But the reality is, is that we've never had an issue with the New Hampshire primary. This is our 100TH year of having the primary that, what if there's ever any issue, we can do a recount and which, when one candidate a few years ago didn't believe they received so few votes, they asked for a recount. And then when they saw that it was identical to the original reported, they stopped after a couple of days. Listen. The fact that our system, I think is impossible to hack because it includes so many human beings and the fact that there's the paper trail. These are the people that are working in the polls are proud New Hampshire citizens that have worked hard over the years to make sure that there's some sanctity to casting ballots. We hold elections a lot in New Hampshire. And there is never really a question about how they're being conducted. We don't have the sort of scandals that occur in some other states simply because it's, as Neil said. It's simple. It's clear. You go in, you know, you check in, you get a ballot, you mark the ballot, you put it in the thing that counts it. And then the the local folks take it all together. But the end of the day, we've got a paper trail. I don't think there's any question that the New Hampshire primary will be 100 percent perfect.

Laura Knoy:
Neil to you, too. So New Hampshire does do recounts and we've seen those before. We don't do audits, which many states do. And experts say that would be a good way to improve security. There are also some what people called cyber-hygiene that New Hampshire doesn't quite do the same way as other states do. I just wonder what your thoughts are or concerns that you might have about election security this time around given heightened awareness of this issue.

Neil Levesque:
Out of all the things that idea with on the political level, I think dealing with the secretary of state's operation is probably the best. And the integrity up there in that office is solid. And he's just, he knows how to do and he does it right. I think that there's always going to be these sort of conspiracies and things that come out of these sort of close calls or no calls, as we saw yesterday. And, you know, if you weren't going to do well in Iowa last night your whole thing now is to sort of say, well, now the whole thing is corrupt and we don't know what the what the problem was. So there's an advantage to a candidate who possibly wasn't gonna do well last night.

Laura Knoy:
Gives him a second chance, Neil?

Neil Levesque:
Yeah. And then there's the whole thing with the other side. So the president's campaign manager really sort of pushed out this idea that there's a whole bunch of activists potentially on the Sanders side that are not going to get heard. And this is the whole thing. And that ties into the to the poll that The Des Moines Register didn't report release. So there's all kinds of things that different campaigns are going to try to take advantage of in the weeks, weeks to come in order to sort of undercut what happened yesterday.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, I see. So by putting out conspiracy theories, you make people feel sort of bitter about the process and depress turnout. Is that the goal?

Neil Levesque:
Well, remember that the last primary period, a lot of people who supported Sanders were not happy about what happened. And if that depressed turnout in the general election, that's not good for the Democrats. And so the more that the Trump campaign can say, see, here's another example, they're not letting Bernie win. And that kind of undercutting is, you're going to hear a lot of that next week.

Laura Knoy:
Well, since you mentioned the Des Moines Register poll, just for people who don't know what that was about, from The New York Times, this is their summary. A highly anticipated poll of Iowa Democrats set to be released two days before the presidential caucuses was shelved Saturday night because of concerns about irregularities in the methodology. According to The Times, the apparent problem was raised by aides to Pete Buttigeig, who said that an Iowa supporter received a phone call from an operator working for the polling operation, but that the name of the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was not listed on the menu of options. So just so if folks aren't up on what you were talking about and an explanation.

Neil Levesque:
A lot of people don't know that universities conduct these polls...there's as a whole.... when you do research on a human subject, there is a whole series of protocols. Our students at St. Anselm actually have to go through a testing situation in order to just call people and say, who are you going to vote for? There's a lot of protocols there, so there's a lot of science behind it. And so there it may or may not be a conspiracy, but I doubt it. I think it's just someone following the rules.

Laura Knoy:
We're looking back a little bit at what happened last night in Iowa. The results or as Neil Leveque said, the non-results from the caucuses and the impact on the New Hampshire primary just a week from today. As a New Hampshire voter. How do you view all this and how might it affect the way that you interact with candidates as they are all over the state this week? Christopher in Manchester writes, I've heard a few pundits this morning say this whole debacle benefits Mike Bloomberg. If it propels Bernie forward as the ultimate nominee, Christopher says, Bloomberg can step in as the mainstream alternative. And he can also tout his background as a numbers crunchers statistics expert and as the antidote to the chaos of the caucus. Christopher, thank you for writing in. I'm going to throw this to you Neil, because Ray is chair of the party. I know it's a little uncomfortable for you to comment on particular candidates, so go ahead, Neil.

Neil Levesque:
I think that the jury's out on what Mike Bloomberg is doing. If anyone can do what he's doing, it's somebody who has national name recognition and $54 billion dollars. So you don't need what the first four states give you in earned media and the excitement and the momentum, if you have all kinds of money. Even though I'm a staunch advocate, obviously, for New Hampshire primary, I'm not going to say that what he's doing wouldn't win. We have to wait to see,. And there is certain, he spent $250 million so far. And if there is a problem with the first state in Iowa, certainly the data there would say that it would benefit someone who's skipping those early states.

Laura Knoy:
Now, Bloomberg would say, see, I told you so. His people must be celebrating. It seems like a pretty good strategy on their end.

Neil Levesque:
Yes. I think there's a couple campaigns are actually sort of feeling pretty good about the fact that they didn't have to say I came in fourth or fifth last night.

Laura Knoy:
Interesting. And here's another e-mail from Andrew in Hillsborough who says States should be offered, quote, pole position based on presidential voting proportions. Basically, states or territories that get the best voter participation numbers are rewarded with dibs on primary position. Andrew says it would also encourage voter participation left, right and center. And Ray, I'll throw that to you if that were the way it were done, New Hampshire would be first, right? We have good participation.

Ray Buckley:
Yeah. We not only have great participation in the presidential primary, we have the percentage, the highest turnout in any state that conducts the primaries or caucuses. But in general election, we're typically among the top, if not the top in presidential, and non-presidential and even in primary votes. We have astounding turnout.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Well, thanks for those e-mails and those phone calls. Again, you can join us when we come back from a short break. What do you think what happened in Iowa means for candidates here in the Granite State? And what are you hoping to hear from these candidates as they hit the state this week? They'll be all around all week.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Tomorrow on our show, it's the Astronomy Hour with our Sky crew. Join us Wednesday morning live at 9:00 for that conversation. This hour, how the lack of results in Iowa affects the last week of campaigning here in New Hampshire. What do you think the results or lack of results from Iowa last night means for candidates here in the Granite State? As a New Hampshire voter, how do you anticipate how the last week of campaigning will roll out here in the Granite State? Neil Levesque, is here, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, which hosts that big New Hampshire presidential debate Friday night. Also with us, Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. And Ray, to you first. So here we are. Iowa is done, sort of. Well, wait to see what happens. But in the meantime, this is Christmas for you, right? Like what is this week like for the chair of the Democratic Party here in the Granite State?

Ray Buckley:
It was phenomenal. This morning, I got off the highway, stopped off at the dry cleaners, went by about a dozen folks holding Tulsi Gabbard signs on the side of the street, dropped off, head this way. And lo and behold, and in front of the Statehouse is this huge rally along with Elizabeth Warren. So you saw all these cameras and the buses and all the folks and I tooted and waved to a lot of the folks that I recognized holding signs out there. This is this week. Whatever happened in Iowa happened in Iowa, but nobody from New Hampshire should not take advantage of this week to go to those town hall meetings. I think Friday night's debate is going to be off the charts with ratings. I think this will be the first debate in a month. And I think that a lot of people can be tuning into to look at this. This could be a very, very pivotal debate.

Laura Knoy:
Well, this is my seventh primary, and I know the anticipation and excitement the candidates get off those planes from Iowa. And, you know, things really get up and running. Do you feel sort of like some of these campaigns feel a little deflated, Ray? Like, oh, I've got, you know, nothing to talk about now?

Ray Buckley:
Well, I think a lot of them now say now it's our time. I think Neil alluded to the fact that, you know, oftentimes some major candidate withdraws the day after or the night of Iowa. Nobody withdrew.

Laura Knoy:
Joe Biden many years ago with after Iowa.

Ray Buckley:
The long list of individuals, last time it was Martin O'Malley. And so nobody withdrew.

Laura Knoy:
so it's a second chance.

Ray Buckley:
They're all here. Exactly. I mean, it just just like here we are. Everyone's out there. We've had, you know, Deval Patrick and Michael Bennet and Tulsi here the whole week anyways. Now we've got them all. And they'll be criss crossing the state nonstop. And I think it's just a phenomenal week. And we should celebrate the New Hampshire primary.

Laura Knoy:
So they're not deflated. They're more excited than ever. Maybe because they don't have to say, here's why I came in fifth.

Ray Buckley:
Well, and nobody has that pressure until we see the results. But sometimes there's a pressure like, oh, if you won in Iowa, then you've got to win in New Hampshire or any of that sort of stuff that right now it's like it's a clean slate. Everyone goes off. And so I think it's it's quite exciting, the CNN town hall meetings that are going to be taking place at St. Anselm as well tomorrow evening and Thursday evening, I think will be well watched. I just think that we've got a great opportunity to to really see all the candidates without any sort of filter.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, interesting. OK. So the debacle in Iowa, Neil, actually is an opportunity not only for New Hampshire, but for the candidates here.

Neil Levesque:
Absolutely. So the energy started this morning at about 4:00 in the morning. You saw Klobuchar come off the Manchester Airport with a full crowd of people there welcoming her. Same with Andrew Yang. And I think you're going to see, as Ray mentioned, a whole series of different things. So those CNN town halls, it's eight candidates, eight hours Wednesday, Thursday. The debate coming up on Friday. That's seventeen hundred people in a hall with about a thousand members of the media, all at St. Anselm College. Multiple events going on through Saturday. The big Shaheen MacIntyre dinner is Saturday with Chairman Buckley at the Verizons or SNHU Arena. And you know, it's not just for Democrats who are really motivated, but the Republicans as well. So you have the president and the vice president coming into Manchester on Monday. And the rally Monday night will probably break all records for the Southern New Hampshire University Arena. And so nonstop action, lots of opportunities. But I think that the the voters here are already really motivated. And this is just going to put it into the stratosphere.

Laura Knoy:
Well, good luck finding a parking place in Manchester this week. Let's go back to our listeners, both of you, and Peyton's calling from Durham. Hi, Peyton. Thanks for being with us. Go ahead.

Caller:
Hi. I just want to say just a few things are, one, it's really exciting. Everyone's heading to New Hampshire and the next week is going to be I can be crazy and and excite, integrate. The second is, you know, last night with that caucus, I have to agree that that really makes the case that you've just got to have a paper trail. And I think you need to keep it just really as low tech as possible. You know, you've got a lot of sophisticated companies and financial service firms and everyone is getting hacked all the time. And to think that, you know, an adversary couldn't really gunk up an election using technology, you know, just the volume. One of the Mueller reports just shows how quickly the Russians got in and attacked the Clinton campaign and then jumped all the way to the national level. So boy I would keep it really simple. I would have as level technology in the election process as possible. And I would always have a fallback to paper and then to sort of multiple people looking at everything. That's my comment and and excited for this week.

Laura Knoy:
Okay. Peyton, thank you very much for calling. We talked about this yesterday in The Exchange. And it sounds like from what I learned yesterday, Ray, New Hampshire's always had paper ballots. And it sounds like I think somebody said almost almost all the states now are going back to paper ballots so that they can have that.

Ray Buckley:
There were two years Manchester had machines that you did the little click. And I side felt very uncomfortable because in my way of looking at I was never sure which little lever lined up with the candidates. So I always had anxiety voting. But when we reverted back, when I was in the legislature on Election Law Committee, we worked with Bill Gardner and went back to the paper ballots for all voters in New Hampshire in every situation. So I think that's that was a very wise thing that was done about 20, 30 years ago. And I'm glad and I agree with Payton on all of his points.

Laura Knoy:
Payne, thank you for the call. And gentlemen, I want to ask both of you about the debates since you mentioned the debate that you're hosting, Neil, at St. Anselm College later this week. What's your take, Neil, on the criticism that has been leveled at the Democratic Party this year, the idea that these debates set up criteria that you had to meet if we get on the stage for money, polls and so on and so forth. And if those criteria were in the end, perhaps too tough, that you saw a lot of candidates getting bumped off the stage pretty early, including candidates of color for a party that prides itself on diversity. I just wonder what your thoughts are about that.

Neil Levesque:
Well, there's there were 26 real leading candidates a year ago. And at some point you sort of need to be able to winnow that down and candidates can attract attention. Look at Pete Bhuta Judge. You know someone who's thirty eight years old, who all of a sudden basically from nowhere just catapulted, a lot of that is because of New Hampshire. There are other things besides debates, these CNN town halls that I mentioned. So there's other ways that candidates are getting out into the sort of universe and touching voters. And it's not just debates. But I think that the Democrats are you know, they were in a tough position. They they have to figure out a way so that you can actually have a real honest debate. Other than 26 candidates on the stage all saying, yes, I agree with that.

Laura Knoy:
So how did Republicans manage this four years ago when they had a lot of candidates?

Neil Levesque:
We had 13, I believe, with Trump on the stage at our debate four years ago. And it's tough because it's really whoever just sort of makes the flashy headline rather than you're getting into the weeds about any kind of real policy and what the differences with these candidates. So it's really tough. We did a we did a congressional debate at Saint Anselm where we I think we had 14 on the stage. And it just, you know, in an hour, you only have enough time to say, I agree. I agree. I agree. And there's no sort of ability to go out and sort of see what the candidates are really like.

Laura Knoy:
So I hear you as someone who's moderated debates, it is tough to manage, you know, 12, 13, 14 candidates in a meaningful way. On the other hand, do you think, Neil, that there's something to the criticism that the DNC rules were were too tough, that it bumped people off too early?

Neil Levesque:
Well, you know, it's unfortunate, but I think we've got a pretty good field right now. The Democrats have a pretty good field. And, you know, we're going to see what happens this week, on Friday. I don't I don't really subscribe to that. And I think. I think for the viewers, you want to be able to sort of pick those top people and sort of decide what you're gonna do. And these debates allow that to happen.

Ray Buckley:
I got to get you in on this, too, Ray. Lots of criticism about this debate process.

Ray Buckley:
There have been. But my response is, OK, what's your plan? What's your alternative? How would you have conducted this? Because Neil was absolutely right. When you've got in excess of 10 people on a on a debate, it's not a debate. Everyone is given a grand total of maybe a minute and a half because.... And unfortunately, the way national debates are done different than we do here in New Hampshire, where we make sure that everyone has about equal time, they really gravitate towards the leaders and and don't pay as much attention to the to those who are in the, not polling as well. So I think I would rather look at that sort of part of how these these are conducted than how how they use the system to try to winnow it down. It just hopefully we'll never have this problem again. I would. We've had upwards of 40 people at one point telling me they're going to run for president or announce for president. It's just been a mind-blowing experience the last couple of years.

Laura Knoy:
Let's go to our listeners again. And Margie is calling from Manchester. Hi, Margie. Go ahead. You're on the air.

Caller:
Hi, good morning. Morning. I just had a comment about some of the news that I've been hearing about voter turnout in Iowa, that it was slightly lower than expected from the Democrats for this election. And one of the things and certainly I don't have any scientific data, but it seems to me that it's not due to a lack of enthusiasm from Democrats. But moreover, they've already made up their mind that anybody is better than Donald Trump. And we saw that a lot last night with the exit, I mean, the entrance polling on the different news stations, that that was the number one concern for voters. And I think, you know, there's probably a chance that that's an indicator of why it wasn't as high as expected.

Laura Knoy:
Very interesting. What do you think, Ray?

Ray Buckley:
Well, I think Margie's is right that there is some great satisfaction among a healthy percentage of the voters that any of these candidates would make a terrific President as compared to the incumbent. And I just do also want to mention that the turnout last night was on the same level as 2016. So it's not like it was down from points. It's just that with all these different reforms that they thought it was going to be higher because they had these satellite caucuses going on there. There were so many different opportunities to be able to participate than had existed before. So the fact that it was the same was a little surprising. But once again, there was just so many changes the way Iowa was conducted that was imposed on them. Not there wasn't the Iowa Democratic Party that proposed any of these. These came from the DNC and the reform commission. And they've tried to implement it. And I'm anxiously awaiting to hear from from the Iowa Dems on on how it all worked out.

Laura Knoy:
And Neil, I want to ask you about New Hampshire's famous late deciding voters. And this goes for Republicans and Democrats. People in the Granite State are known for not deciding till the very last minute. Sometimes, you know, the day of the primary. What's your sense of how many Democratic voters now? Pretty strong indications that most Republicans support President Trump today. And correct me if I'm wrong, but among New Hampshire Democrats, what's your sense of how many are still undecided?

Neil Levesque:
I think that generally the vast majority could switch in this last week. And I think really, you know, the reporter that was on earlier that said that, you know, you choose your own ending is really that was the quote of the day because, you know, no one can declare victory so can't get this big boost. So now here we are. Everybody's on sort of a level playing field. We'll be releasing poll numbers tomorrow. But I don't think we're going to come out with anything that sort of is a big shocker that any one candidate is in the major league. So it's a it's a free for all right now. And the week ahead is going to change. If the vote was held today would be different than the next Tuesday. And I think, I always remember that 1988 election. You know, Bush did not do well in Iowa. He comes to New Hampshire. He's down and out. And he just really works hard and he turns it all around.

Laura Knoy:
Anything can happen in the next week. Another e-mail came in from Lynn in Sanbornton. She says, You lost Corey Booker. And he wisely made the point that black supporters are often low wage earners and could not do the money donations that the middle class and upper can do. Lynn says that's a valid and worrisome point when the rules for staying in include money raised. Lynn, thank you so much. And Ray, Cory Booker did make that point when he was on with me a couple weeks ago. He dropped out not long after saying that the money thresholds are unfair.

Ray Buckley:
Well, I look forward to having a conversation with him later on, because the alternative is what would, what would his alternative be other than having 15, 20 or so candidates on the stage? So he can say that it's unfair. But I think that the point was, is that it was low dollar donations. These were about people giving a dollar. It's not it's not like the percentage was based on how much they gave. It's how many people say.

Laura Knoy:
So it was the number of donors, even if they gave a dollar.I remember, John Delaney had some scheme where he was giving money to people's favorite charities if they would donate a dollar to his campaign so he could say he had a lot of those, way early on. But still, you know, Tom Steyer, for example, no political experience, kind of just jumped on the scene, although he's been involved in funding causes for a while, because he has been able to buy massive amounts of ads on YouTube and other platforms. He's still on the debate stage. So, you know, that was another point that Cory Booker made with us that, you know. Okay, I hear you when you say that it's small dollar donations that count. So anybody can achieve that if they work hard enough. But if you've got the money to put the ads out there, it's easier to get it done.

Ray Buckley:
And you've got Andrew Yang, who's also on the stage, who is even more less probable candidate that you would assume having also never not being a billionaire and not ever having held elective office. But here he is. He's got a strong, enthusiastic support out there. And they're working really hard. They worked hard in Iowa. They are working hard here in New Hampshire and elsewhere. So I think it's a pretty good process.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Well, Lynn, thank you very much for that e-mail. And Neil, back, I'm gonna give you one more chance to just tell us about that debate that's coming up at the Institute of Politics on Friday night. The details. who's gonna be there and all the preparations that are going on?

We have a huge sort of protester area for people who are supporting or against candidates out front. That's always exciting to see. Seventeen hundred people in the audience. CNN right next door to the ABC debate and a thousand members of the press. So very, very exciting. Lots of opportunities for our students. And everybody wants to take it, I have to say, we're out.

Laura Knoy:
I assumed as much. That's why I didn't even ask. All right. Well, good luck with that. Thank you very much, Neil, for coming in. It was nice to see you. That's Neil Levesque again. He's executive director that Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. And Ray Buckley, good to see you, too. Thank you for your time. That's Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. And you've been listening to The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.