Imagine this: You’re the Super Bowl host city, and you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get the big game in your town. Now everyone’s watching as the game comes to an end, and you can’t get the scoreboard to work. Suddenly no one’s sure who’s ahead or how much time is left to play. That nightmare scenario probably could not happen. But we have seen some highly improbable events lately that embarrassed the host states in the presidential nominating process. Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn resigned this week, taking the hit for the botch that was made of the caucus count in his state last month. Mitt Romney was initially declared the winner, then told he had finished second by 34 votes behind Rick Santorum. But the party admitted it was not really sure, and some votes might be missing. Ouch.
Take the Republican caucuses in Nevada this weekend. Most of the community meetings at more than 100 sites were held in the morning or early afternoon and had their tallies in by evening. But no official results were released for hours, and the official count went on well into the night.
Why? There appeared to be delays from Washoe (Reno) County and a few other venues. But the main holdup was in Clark (Las Vegas) County, home to more than 60 percent of the Republican vote. Clark had said it would hold its release until its last caucus site reported, and at one point the state GOP said it would not release data either. This got confusing as the evening wore on, and Clark waited on its last caucus site, at the Adelson Educational Center in Vegas. Here, the doors did not open until after sundown, so that Orthodox Jews and Seventh Day Adventists could vote after their Sabbath ended.
Awkward. The networks and other news organizations had “entrance polls” taken at caucus sites during the day all over the state. They knew Romney had won in a walk. But it’s been catechism for decades that major news organizations do not name a statewide winner until all the polling places in that state have closed.