Civil War: Progressives Rage at Last-Minute DNC Moves to Weaken Bernie, Boost Bloomberg

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Posted: Feb 03, 2020 10:25 AM
Civil War: Progressives Rage at Last-Minute DNC Moves to Weaken Bernie, Boost Bloomberg

DES MOINES, IOWA -- We'll get to the brewing anger in a moment, but first, after endless analysis, spin, and guesswork, actual 2020 voting is finally upon us.  Democratic voters will caucus later this evening, as the opposition party formally begins its process of selecting its nominee to challenge President Trump in the fall.  Here in the Hawkeye State, no pollster is more entrenched or respected than Ann Selzer, the force behind the well-regarded Des Moines Register survey.  The caucuses are notoriously challenging to accurately poll, but Selzer has built a reputation over many years (I'd note that the DMR poll basically nailed the Democratic outcome in 2016, but was off by more than eight points on the GOP side).  So for obvious reasons, the final pre-caucus DMR data was highly anticipated by political observers and all the relevant campaigns -- so much so that CNN planned on devoting special Sunday evening programming to covering and assessing the results.  And then, this happened:


Here's the pollster's official explanation:

Nothing is more important to the Register and its polling partners than the integrity of the Iowa Poll. Today, a respondent raised an issue with the way the survey was administered, which could have compromised the results of the poll. It appears a candidate’s name was omitted in at least one interview in which the respondent was asked to name their preferred candidate. While this appears to be isolated to one surveyor, that could not be confirmed with certainty. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, the partners made the difficult decision not to move forward with releasing the poll. The poll was the last one scheduled by the polling partners before the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses, which are Monday. J. Ann Selzer, whose company conducts the Iowa Poll, said, “There were concerns about what could be an isolated incident. Because of the stellar reputation of the poll, and the wish to always be thought of that way, the heart-wrenching decision was made not to release the poll. The decision was made with the highest integrity in mind.”

The candidate in question, reportedly, was Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign filed a complaint that triggered the decision to scrap the whole poll.  I spoke with a Republican pollster about this entire episode, who called it a "nightmare" for the entity responsible for executing and publishing the survey, adding that the whole situation was highly unusual.  Speaking as someone who's not an expert in this field, I do wonder why one apparently-accidental omission of one candidate's name during a survey with one respondent would taint the whole operation and require pulling the plug on the entire batch of results.  Couldn't that one interview have simply been either replaced or carved out of the tabulations?  I suppose it's possible that this mistake occurred more than once, but is there any evidence whatsoever to that effect?  

This drastic move (coupled with conflicting reports about what occurred) has spawned a number of theories -- including suggestions that the outlets who sponsored the poll 'didn't like' the outcome, and seized on this isolated irregularity to spike the survey.  I have trouble buying that.  They chose to blow up their big poll and axe an entire CNN show because...what?  Elizabeth Warren underperformed, or something?  If I had to guess, maybe the survey looked like a bit of an outlier to begin with, then the Buttigieg omission triggered fears about a contaminated process.  So Selzer & Co. decided not to stick their necks out and risk their reputation by publishing data that might be compromised.  But again, I don't understand why they couldn't have done a quick internal review of whether the irregularity was, in fact, isolated -- and if it was, just eliminate the problematic questionnaire from the final product.  Strange.  Meanwhile, for those thirsting for some new numbers as caucus day arrives, here's CBS News' last 2020 Iowa poll:


A tie at the very top, with Buttigieg in hot pursuit.  Two other just-released Hawkeye State surveys give Bernie Sanders leads of nine points and five points, respectively, with Joe Biden edging ahead in the previous two data sets.  Sanders holds a three-point lead in the polling average.  Keep in mind that there could always be a caucus night surprise.  I harken back to 2012, when the Iowa polling average showed Mitt Romney and Ron Paul locked in a tight battle for first place, with Rick Santorum languishing in a fairly distant third place.  Santorum proceeded to shock everyone by winning outright, beating expectations by eight-plus percentage points.  This merely underscores that all the prognosticating in the world only goes so far.  The rubber meets the road when real, live voters start to make decisions.  And that begins tonight.  I'll leave you with Democratic figures ranging from far-left Michael Moore to centrist-ish Joe Biden panning the DNC's confounding and potentially-disastrous eleventh-hour decision to change their debate rules mid-stream, to benefit billionaire Michael Bloomberg:


Parting quote: "What the DNC did has the potential to tear its party apart."  Speaking of which, ahem:


Honestly, what the hell are they thinking?  This could get uglier and uglier.