After the ridiculously close squeaker in the Iowa caucuses, the state’s Democratic Party said it couldn’t release the raw vote totals for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
That simply isn’t how they do business, party officials insisted.
Even after they audited the results this week, Iowa Democratic officials would say only that Clinton won 49.84 percent of the vote and Sanders 49.59 percent, reducing her margin slightly to a quarter of a point.
Sanders has called for the raw vote totals to be released. The state party says that’s not the way it conducts the caucuses. And the press has pretty much let the matter drop.
But it hasn't played out that way in past elections. Here are the vote totals reported--or, some argue, estimated--for Iowa’s 2008 Democratic caucus:
Barack Obama, 93, 952.
John Edwards, 74,377.
Hillary Clinton, 73,663.
Joe Biden 2,328.
It’s not a secret document. It’s available on CNN’s website.
Iowa Democratic Chairman Andrea McGuire wrote in the Des Moines Register that the raw vote totals are irrelevant. “These are not contests of popular raw votes—nor do we think they should be,” McGuire said. “Asking for raw vote totals demonstrates a misunderstanding of our process.”
But if it wasn’t a problem eight years ago, why is it such a big deal now? A spokesman for the Iowa party maintains it did not release the raw totals in 2008 and that the figures reported by CNN are probably based on journalistic estimates.
"Candidates are competing for delegates in the Iowa Democratic Precinct caucuses, which is why we report the statewide delegate equivalents won by each candidate," the spokesman said.
Which raises the question: Why would the party put the media in the position of having to do their own calculations?
Obviously the raw vote makes little difference in terms of delegates. But if Clinton, as expected, loses New Hampshire, and it turns out Sanders got more votes in Iowa, that would be a double blow psychologically—and give the Vermont senator bragging rights in the first two contests.
It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the state party establishment is trying to protect Hillary.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that McGuire, an Iowa co-chairman of Clinton’s 2008 campaign, drives a Buick with the license plate HRC2016.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.