Saturday, January 21, 2012

Iowa Voting Irregularities Kept Santorum from Becoming the Anti-Romney Candidate

Ben Johnson,The White House Watch

Vote irregularities in the Iowa caucuses led to Mitt Romney erroneously being declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses earlier this month,artificially giving his presidential campaign weeks of momentum and depriving Rick Santorum the opportunity to become the conservatives’alternative candidate.
The original results showed Mitt Romney had won in Iowa by a margin of eight votes. But yesterday,Iowa GOP officials announced a “final”vote total shows Santorum won at least 34 votes more votes than Mitt. The new results will record 29,839 votes for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney.
“Many people were skeptical”on election night,said Gretchen Carlson on “Fox and Friends”Thursday morning. But as I noted, absolutely nobody was skeptical about the election night shenanigans. No anchor expressed concern about the series of dubious-sounding voting snafus —including a story about someone absconding with ballots and driving the results around Iowa’s backroads in his pickup truck. Instead,slap-happy Fox News’analysts played the stories off as a joke and eagerly reported Karl Rove’s scoop that Mitt Romney’s vote had been “undercounted.”
A few days later,a Ron Paul supporter came forward with information that his private record of his precinct’s vote totals did not match the numbers party officials reported. These alone,Edward True said,would have shifted the race from Romney to Santorum.
Even now,eight precincts cannot certify their vote —precincts,as I note,that did not support Romney in 2008. Matt Strawn,chairman of the Iowa GOP,said he had no idea how these votes were lost.
But the problem is worse than that. The Washington Post points out,deep in an piece in yesterday’s issue,that the numbers reported to the party on each voting precinct’s “Form E”did not match the actual vote totals in 131 precincts. That’s seven percent of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. What’s more,100 precincts’Form E returns did not comply with state instructions:
The precinct chair and precinct secretary were both to sign the results verified by witnesses on caucus night. But results for some precincts came in on pieces of paper other than the official forms. Many more had only one signature,or the wrong signature (say,from a county chair). Another 18 documents had no signatures at all.
All were accepted,party officials said.
This article details the caucuses’problems on a county-by-county basis this year,and at a marco level going back to 1976.
“Does anyone have a problem with that this morning?”Carlson asked. “Maybe we should look into the process.”
Maybe,indeed. Romney’s loss to Mike Huckabee in 2008 derailed his campaign. The news that Romney prevailed,even by eight votes,gave Mitt an aura of inevitability,a sense buoyed by Romney’s long-expected victory in the New Hampshire primaries. Santorum’s “tie,”though endearing in an underdog sense,left him looking like an unsuccessful flavor-of-the-week,Michele Bachmann in a sweater vest.
By the time the news broke,Santorum was mired in fourth place in South Carolina.
Yesterday’s announcement should have breathed life into his campaign. Instead,Rick Perry’s abrupt exit and endorsement of Newt Gingrich kept Santorum out of the spotlight. (Perry,who made a compelling candidate on paper,stepped on viable conservative challengers twice. His announcement deflated Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa Straw Poll,and now his exit buries Santorum’s victory in the caucuses.)
John Stineman,an Iowa Republican operative,said the results reversal “will be a story and Santorum will seize upon it,but it won’t change the current political narrative.”
Gretchen Carlson agreed,“Does it make any difference to the race going forward? Probably not.”
The momentum of a second socially conservative candidate defeating Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses and the mass endorsement of evangelical leaders in South Carolina would have solidified Rick Santorum as the Christian Right’s anti-Romney,especially in South Carolina. Instead,the brilliant but less reliably conservative Newt Gingrich is surging based on outstanding debate performances,and Santorum is hanging on for dear life.
More importantly,a second rejection of Romney in Iowa would have raised questions about his appeal to the GOP base and spelled a much different narrative for the former governor. Conservatives would have rallied earlier. Santorum may not have gained enough support to win,but Romney have been placed on the defensive —where,as his debate performances stretching back to 2008 prove,ul ar particularly ineffective.
The Republican Party’s conservative base has been betrayed twice —once by the media,and once by indefensible behavior from within.

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