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Caucus fallout adds significance to Wisconsin Primary

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Canon tighter shot 2-4-20

MADISON (WKOW) -- A UW-Madison political expert expects the delayed and decried Iowa Caucus returns--which stretched from Monday into Tuesday--to give even more weight to the Wisconsin Primary.

Public reaction to the delayed results ranged from laughter to anger Monday night. While #IowaCaucusDisaster trended on Twitter throughout the day Tuesday, UW-Madison Political Science Professor David Canon said the emotions are understandable.

"This was clearly a meltdown of pretty epic proportions," Canon said.

Iowa's Democratic Party released only a part of the returns late Tuesday afternoon. Traditionally the vast majority of results are reported the night of the contest.

Canon added that the true impact of the caucuses on Wisconsin voters is that it only adds to the likelihood that Wisconsinites will go to the polls on April 7 with the Democratic Primary race still far from decided.

"You have two liberal candidates, two or three moderate candidates that are in that top five, I think that means the votes will be divided through these early few rounds of the caucuses and primaries so that Wisconsin, I think, will still be playing a meaningful role," Canon said.

While the delayed results in Iowa drew accusations of gross incompetence or even outright conspiracy theories, Canon said the most simple explanation is most likely the correct one--that party officials in Iowa failed to handle the combination of new rules and new reporting tools.

"This is just a new technology that was not properly field-tested," Canon said. "I don't think there's any indication from anyone this was some kind of outside hacking or interference in the election in any way."

The true electoral influencer

Canon said that while early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire will give top performers a boost, that momentum will only carry them so far. He believes that another election night will have much more influence on how Wisconsin voters approach the April 7 election.

"I don't think the Wisconsin voter will be thinking about Iowa and New Hampshire two months from now," Canon said. "I think the results of Super Tuesday, for example, will be much more important."

Fourteen states will hold their primaries on Super Tuesday, scheduled for March 3. Among the states holding contests that day are the nation's two most populous--California and Texas. Wisconsin's other western neighbor, Minnesota, will also stage its primary on Super Tuesday.

Time to retire the Caucuses?

The true long-lasting impact of the 2020 Iowa Caucuses may be the delayed results delivering a final blow to the Hawkeye State's longtime status as "first in the nation" when it comes to presidential primaries. Critics had already panned the tradition as archaic, noting Iowa's population--91 percent white and largely rural--no longer reflects the national Democratic voting base.

Canon said the act of caucusing itself leads to a non-representative outcome since so many citizens cannot reasonably be expected to participate.

"The Iowa Caucus is so time-consuming; it takes one-and-a-half, two hours to participate, which means a lot of families with children, anyone with a disability, has a hard time participating in these caucuses," he said.

Canon added the mishandled process this time around could lead to a compromise of sorts: one where Iowa still holds the first contest but would have company.

"I think there will be more pressure after this to say 'alright, we need to at least pair Iowa with a more representative state,'" Canon said.

A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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