DES MOINES — Iowa first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses produced two winners and one big loser — the Republican Party of Iowa.
Initial results showed Mitt Romney won the January caucuses by eight votes, but after the results from more than 1,700 individual precinct caucuses were certified, Rick Santorum was the winner by 34 votes.
“We have to look at those mistakes, acknowledge them, review them and fix them and that’s what we intend to do,” GOP Co-Chairman Bill Schickel said Wednesday. “The bad news is that caucuses have been characterized by others as a fiasco, as a clown show.”
Subcommittees on public information, vote tabulation and volunteer training are reviewing what went right — about 95 percent of the caucus process, Schickel said, as well as what didn’t work.
The panels will survey party leaders at the county, state and national levels and consult with a variety of experts, he said.
Schickel said the panels will present their initial findings at a 10 a.m. meeting April 26 at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny. More meetings are planned May 30 in Cedar Rapids and June 25 in Sioux City.
Schickel said at a news conference Wednesday that Iowans still love their precinct caucuses, which he characterized as a “shining example of grass-roots democracy at its very best.” Schickel said data gleaned from the 2012 caucuses indicates the caucuses and caucus participants are representative of the party.
However, he said the party faces a big job to re-instill confidence in the process and defend Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status.
“We think that making sure Iowa has the most open, honest and transparent presidential testing ground in the country is important not just to Republicans, but, indeed, important to all Iowans and really to all Americans,” Schickel said.
Schickel deflected questions about what pressure the Iowa GOP is feeling from the Republican National Committee or other state GOPs, but conceded that “every four years it’s a contest for who’s going to be first.”
In a conference calls with reporters Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley said there is reason for Iowa Republicans to be concerned.
However, he endorsed the caucus review saying that how the party handles the situation will determine whether Iowa retains its first-in-the-nation status.
Schickel said he believes the review will reinforce “what a good process this is, how good this is for democracy, how good this is for the country.”
There are alternatives, such as a national primary, Schickel said, “but you definitely begin to talk about who’s the best fundraiser not necessarily who has the best ideas. I don’t think that’s what our Founding Fathers had in mind.”