The caucus hadn’t even begun and some of the media was already off to the races with results. This seemed slightly disheartening—and it became even more so as I watched the caucus unfold, with local citizens speaking genuinely about issues they cared about and on behalf of their favored candidates.
I was standing next to Marcelo Raimon, a D.C.-based Argentine journalist who writes for Clarin, that country’s largest newspaper. “This is nice—this picture of democracy—but it’s just such a bad time,” he told me, as we watched the caucus chair count out ballots at the front of the room, the video- and photojournalists jostling for images of the vote-tallying.
By the time I returned to the filing center, the Google map was beginning to show the live results. Based on the entrance polls, the chatter in the center—and elsewhere—was about a three-way race. There was collective frustration because the results were coming in slowly—no doubt, this was partly due to the unrealistic expectations I’d heard during the day that we’d know the results around 7:30 (that’s not long after the caucus site I was at recited the Pledge of Allegiance to kick off proceedings).
Eventually it became clear it was more of a two-way race. The buzzwords became “too close to call” and “dead heat.” The room started to buzz when the Google map showed 85 percent of precincts reporting—the race was still neck and neck, but it appeared the end was in sight.
But then, of course, it wasn’t. The percentage of precincts reporting crept up slowly to 93 percent. The journalists around me overheard NBC’s John Harwood say his network just couldn’t with certainty call a winner before the remaining votes were in. Though the news of the night was more or less clear, it was also clear that the reporting on that news wouldn’t be over for a while. Maybe I’m projecting, but a sense of resignation settled over the filing center.
“Hurry up and wait,” chuckled the Voice of America cameraman seated behind me. His crew of four had their package ready to air—aside from that little detail about who the winner would be, and sound bites from Romney and Santorum.
I’m not sure when they finished up. And it seems Chuck Todd never did. When I got to Cedar Rapids and turned on the TV I’m pretty sure it was Chuck Todd who reported the result—which makes it all the more unbelievable that when I turned on the TV again at 7 a.m. Iowa time, Todd was reporting on Decision 2012 from Manchester, New Hampshire. That’s a full day’s work.