A key Republican activist had perhaps the harshest criticism of Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn's handling of the 2012 Iowa Caucus, and he joins many others saying Iowa hurt its claim to first-in-the-nation status.
"For Matt Strawn to refuse to declare a winner of the caucus, it makes the Caucus a joke," said Craig Robinson, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Iowa Republican and former political director overseeing the caucus for the state GOP. "He cast a huge cloud of suspicion over the caucus process."
"Matt Strawn should step down as GOP chairman," he said.
Robinson's main point of contention wasn't necessarily the , it was Strawn's refusal to declare Rick Santorum the winner after the vote certification was complete Thursday morning. Strawn later gave a less-than-full declaration of Santorum as winner. Robinson pointed to exclusive interviews with the Des Moines Register and FoxNews where Strawn wouldn't say who won.
"This is his No. 1 responsibility to protect and maintain Iowa's first-in-the-nation status, and the stories coming from this Caucus are disastrous. It will make it much more difficult to defend our status when questions about how to count votes is raised," Robinson said. "When you give someone an exclusive and can't drive a positive narrative, it's a bad one."
"Matt Strawn needs to resign. Today. He is ultimately responsible for the integrity of the process, and the "missing" precincts issues goes right to the heart if that."
Barry Piatt, a Democratic activist from Iowa, also said Strawn's resignation is in order.
"This may well end up costing Iowa Republicans the priviledge of going first. It is pretty hard to make the case for them if they can't guarantee the integrity of their process. I think the GOP State Chair's resignation is in order. This is a massive foul up. As I said, it goes to the heart of of the integrity of their process, and he is ultimately responsible for seeing that it is protected," Piatt wrote on his Facebook page.
While others have defended Strawn and the problems with the final totals, Robinson and Piatt were not alone in criticizing the process.
Flip-Flop Gives Other States Ammo
When Patch asked Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, representing Marion, how he felt about it, he said he wasn't pleased.
"I'm embarrassed, disappointed, you know," he said.
"We are entrusted with a sacred tradition of first-in-the-nation status," Oleson said. "We are under constant assault from those who want to take it away. We shouldn't be giving them ammunition for them to take it away from us."
West Des Moines businessman Gary Kirke agrees that the vote-counting issue is “an internal problem that doesn’t make Iowa look very good."
“The country’s out to get Iowa knocked out as No. 1, and this gives them a little fuel,” he said.
David Yepsen, the longtime Des Moines Register political columnist and current director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said this "tarnishes" Iowa's reputation.
"One of the strengths of the Iowa caucus process is that the state was a level, fair playing field. Candidates could come to the state and get an honest airing. There aren't political machines or a history of fraud. The inaccurate counting tarnishes that reputation,” Yepsen told NBC News Thursday.
Black Hawk County Republican chairman Mac McDonald said, overall, he wished the state could have presented a more organized face to the rest of the country.
"I can see how mistakes happen," he said. "I can't see how you can’t certify something. All the county chairs have phones. You call and say, 'Hey can you explain this.' And then you certify it. I think it doesn’t shed a very good light on the Republican Party of Iowa."
Confusion May Tarnish Iowa's Reputation
Black Hawk County Tea Party organizer Judd Saul, who also helped organize the Black Hawk County Caucus at the UNI-Dome, on a state level said he's not so pleased.
“How can you certify with eight precincts missing? I’m really mad at the process and that people don’t have their crap together,” he said. “But considering it’s a caucus, not a full ballot with a machine counting system and it's all done by human hand, you’re going to have human error.”
Both Saul and McDonald said they didn't feel Strawn needed to step down, however.
Christopher Larimer, University of Northern Iowa political science professor, added, "A lot of outsiders already viewed the Caucus as kind of this goofy process. To have even more questions about the process isn't good for Iowa. Before it was should Iowa be first because of the demographics, now it's should Iowa be first because of the process."
Dennis Goldford, a Drake University political science professor, also called it an embarrassment.
"Matt Strawn's a good guy and he's got all the integrity in the world," he said, but "it's an embarrassment."
The revised totals will add fuel to criticism that the Iowa caucuses don't deserve this first-in-the-nation status, he said.
"They've always said that Iowa's not very representative and Iowa Democrats choose candidates that are more liberal than the rest of the country, and Iowa Republicans choose candidates that are more conservative than the rest of the country," he said. "And now they'll say, "And they can't even count right."
National Politicos, Media Raising Questions
Here’s a sampling of today’s online chatter and TV talk show opining about the Caucus process and what the affect on the state’s political future might be.
• Politico.com: Blogger Alexander Burns writes: “The botched vote count is a real embarrassment for Iowa and its caucus process, which lured candidates to devote weeks and months of their time to the state and spend an awful lot of money there. What did they get in exchange?”
• Talking Points Memo: The website used this headline to describe the Iowa GOP answer to voting issues: Cop Out for the Ages!!
According to the website, Santorum’s Iowa campaign manager, Cody Brown, complained that his candidate wasn’t crowned winner. “How can the RPI declare a winner using unofficial results and not declare a winner using official results?” Brown told the website.
• TIME magazine: “The real winner, however, is still Mitt Romney — because for over two weeks he got the benefit of being described repeatedly in the media as the narrow “winner” of a caucus that journalists should have called a tie. And we’ll never know, but the difference it made may have been a hell of a lot more than a few votes.
John Harwood of CNBC: The reporter said this afternoon on Martin Bashir’s MSNBC show: “It was an ‘Oops’ day for the Iowa Caucuses.”