CNN's Blitzer: 'Very, Very Embarrassing' Dems Couldn't Staff Iowa Caucuses

CNN's Wolf Blitzer shamed Democratic Party leaders early on Tuesday morning, after correspondent Jeff Zeleny reported that "the Iowa Democratic Party...failed to adequately staff 90 precincts across the state." Blitzer first replied, "That's pretty shocking," and wondered if there was "higher turnout than they anticipated." The anchor later labeled the situation "pretty embarrassing." He amplified this superlative minutes later: "Pretty awkward...very, very embarrassing for the Democratic Party in Iowa." [video below]

Zeleny first noted that "a campaign official with the Sanders campaign has just told us that the Iowa Democratic Party, in their words, failed to adequately staff 90 precincts across the state; and they are now asking both the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign to help recreate the results from what happened tonight at the caucuses." Blitzer asked the journalist to clarify: "I don't understand what that means, to restage the caucus — the caucuses in those various locations. What does that mean?" Zeleny replied, "It's just to recreate the results, Wolf. So it would be to say specifically how many people came out for Hillary Clinton; how many people caucused for Bernie Sanders."

The transcript of the relevant portions of the Wolf Blitzer/Jeff Zeleny segment from CNN's live coverage of the Iowa Caucuses on the early morning of February 2, 2016:

JEFF ZELENY (via telephone): A campaign official with the Sanders campaign has just told us that the Iowa Democratic Party, in their words, failed to adequately staff 90 precincts across the state; and they are now asking both the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign to help recreate the results from what happened tonight at the caucuses — and they do not believe or they're not sure if that can be done this evening. They said the party officials are working through the evening to do this, but that is what the holdup here is, Wolf.

Now, we're not exactly sure where these 90 precincts are. The Sanders campaign, of course, is going through them. They did not say exactly where they are. Some of them are right here in Des Moines, in Polk County — the state's most populous county. But that is why there is once again a deadlock and uncertainty hanging over these Iowa caucuses — this time, on the Democratic side. Of course, four years ago, it was on the Republican side.

But the Sanders campaign is saying that they will help out and cooperate and try and recreate this; and, of course, both sides kept very good records and they have their own online app and their iPhone app to keep attendance records and things. So, there is information out there, but the party, the state party apparently did not adequately staff 90 precincts — at least in the view of the Sanders campaign.

WOLF BLITZER: I don't understand what that means, to restage the caucus — the caucuses in those various locations. What does that mean?

ZELENY: It's just to recreate the results, Wolf. So it would be to say specifically how many people came out for Hillary Clinton; how many people caucused for Bernie Sanders. So that is our understanding — that the party does not have the official tally, if you will, from these precincts. That is our understanding coming from what the Iowa Democratic Party has told the campaign. But again, the Sanders officials are quite sharp in their language of this — their language saying the state party failed to adequately staff some 90 precincts. And, as you know, Wolf, there are some 1,800 precincts across the state of Iowa that make up the Iowa caucuses.

BLITZER: That's pretty shocking. Is it because they had a higher turnout than they anticipated? Is that the excuse they're giving for this?

ZELENY: Certainly, that could be one of the reasons. But, you know, there were definitely some questions about technology. There was this new Microsoft technology actually going to work in some of these places? You know, we don't know if they're urban counties or if there are some rural counties. I'm guessing it's a mix. So perhaps, that could be playing a role in this as well. But it's certainly one question mark hanging over this very, very close, too close to call Iowa caucus.

BLITZER: Yeah. It's pretty embarrassing for the Democratic Party in Iowa — that they failed to adequately staff what 90 or so of these caucus sites. That's pretty embarrassing.

(....)

BLITZER: Pretty awkward; pretty embarrassing, John [King] — I've got to tell you that they didn't have it adequately staffed in those 90 caucus sites — very, very embarrassing for the Democratic Party in Iowa. We'll see if they can recreate those numbers, and do it in a fair and responsible way — even though it's about as close as you possibly can think. It's a virtual tie right now. The bragging rights are important for Hillary Clinton if she wins; or Bernie Sanders if he were to win in Iowa. That would be significant. So, it's clearly an embarrassment for the Democratic Party right now.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center