register to vote, Iowa
"Register to Vote" sign in Iowa. Photo Credit: Phil Roeder / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It took the news media a whopping 31 minutes to taint the results of the Iowa caucuses and, therefore, the entire GOP primary.

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The biggest loser of the Iowa presidential caucuses is the mainstream media, which once again completely misunderstood its role in a democracy and will thereby play an important role in helping to dismantle it. 

Today’s screwup involves all news outlets calling the race for Donald Trump after about 30 minutes, based on entrance polls. What’s next, counting the number of MAGA hats in line and predicting a winner based on that?

The thinking of media executives is obvious: We have to be first with “the news.” But here is the thing: Trump winning Iowa isn’t exactly news, so the only thing they are breaking is journalism.

It did not take a genius to figure out that the former president would prevail in a state that is about 103 percent white (not counting the 30 percent of migrant farm workers who keep the place running even though their employers rant about “the crisis at the border”) and in which two-thirds of the people believe that President Joe Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election.

They have been so effectively gaslit by Trump that, if he told him that ethanol causes wokeness, they’d set their own corn fields on fire.

Heck, we called the entire primary months ago. But that’s not the same as calling a primary election before many people have even voted!

If you want to talk about disenfranchising voters, this is a great example. These folks braved sub-zero temperatures to make it to their caucus sites, and then all news outlets called the race before they got to do anything. 

Why wouldn’t they turn around, go home, and watch football, or do anything apart from braving arctic temperatures just to have their voices go unheard (unless, of course, they were interviewed in an entrance poll, in which case they helped decide this thing)?

Most importantly, by calling the race already, and thereby potentially influencing what happens at the caucus sites where voting had not yet begun, these news outlets risk having an effect on the final results. 

And because Trump winning isn’t actually the news tonight, but rather how the rest of the field stacks up and what that means heading into New Hampshire, the media organizations making this irresponsibly early call are impacting the entire primary.

Especially with what is shaping up to be a tight race for second place between former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, these votes actually matter. 

One of them is eventually going to drop out, and, in the case of the latter, a third place finish in Iowa is a reason to do it sooner rather than later. That affects the primary in a way that Trump winning doesn’t. 

Sure, it likely won’t make a difference, but that doesn’t matter. 

No outlet should ever call a race while people are still waiting to vote, no matter how certain the outcome is. 


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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