Opinion: Iowa caucuses’ count confusion: Hold on to your hanging chads

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Hold everything: There may be trouble in River City -- and in other places in Iowa.

There’s late-breaking counting news from Tuesday’s Republican caucuses: Rick Santorum may actually have defeated Mitt Romney.

Oh yeah? Says who? Says True, that’s who.

As The Times reported late Thursday night:

On Thursday, Edward True of Moulton, Iowa, filed an affidavit saying that Romney’s reported total in the caucus he attended overstated his support by 20 votes, the Daily Iowegian reported. True, who said he was one of three people who helped count ballots, said Romney only received two votes -- not the 22 reported on the Iowa Republican Party’s website. He says Santorum had actually won the precinct, winning 21 of the 53 total votes.


So, with apologies to Vin Scully: ‘In a year that’s been so improbable, the impossible has happened.’

Or, to paraphrase George W. Bush: Oh goodie -- are we going to have hanging chads again and everything?

Or, to paraphrase Al Gore: Can’t anyone in this country count anymore?

What’s uh, truly amazing about this, though, is that it turns out that the Iowa caucuses, which the news media covered as if they actually counted (there’s that word again), are run more like a high school contest for homecoming queen.

Or, as The Times’ Michael A. Memoli put it, a bit more soberly:

The incident is sure to raise new questions about the quirky process that typically begins the presidential nominating contest. The Republican caucuses, run by the party and not the state, are essentially a popularity contest among those who attend; at some caucus sites there are no paper records of the vote.

‘Quirky process’?

To me, a quirky process is the one used to pick the college football teams that play in the BCS championship game. Or how I fill out my March Madness brackets. Or the way I used to do my taxes.

In those cases, quirky is fine. But not when picking the potential next president of the United States.

I mean, when Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper stay up into the wee hours to confirm the results -– even bringing in some nice women from Iowa by phone to help -- I don’t want to find out 24 hours later that it was all just for fun. You know: Hey, Mitt Romney, you’re not prom king after all!

Still, it may all work out:

State party chairman Matt Strawn noted at the time that a certified tally would not come for two more weeks.


Oh. And this:

There is also no official provision for a recount because no delegates are at stake.

On hearing the news, Santorum took the high road, saying the final final results didn’t matter to him -– that the race was a tie.

But I hold to a more American ideal, expressed by one Vincent T. Lombardi:

‘If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?’


McManus: Is the tea party over?

Mitt Romney: Not a sure bet [The conversation]

Michele Bachmann: What happened to the once-promising candidate?

-- Paul Whitefield