Updated Feb 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Font fiasco tanks climactic Iowa poll

Democratic presidential candidates at the Democratic presidential debate in Westerville, Ohio, Oct.15. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a Saturday night stunner, the Des Moines Register and CNN scrapped the final Iowa Poll before Monday's caucuses because of fears it was tainted.

Why it matters: This is the gold-standard poll, published by the Register for 76 years, that gives talking heads their cud to chew for the final 48 hours.

It appears a candidate's name was omitted in at least one interview in which the respondent was asked to name their preferred candidate."
— Des Moines Register

The big picture: Iowa is the first state to caucus in presidential elections and serves as an early indicator of which candidates could succeed at the national level.

  • The release of the results was highly anticipated in the final stretch of the Iowa race, which has seen Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg polling neck-and-neck in recent weeks.
  • Per Politico, the survey "has the power to fuel a candidate's 11th-hour momentum — or damage a contender who under-performs expectations. J. Ann Selzer, the Iowa-based pollster who has worked for the Register for decades, is a minor celebrity in politics and widely regarded as one of the top survey researchers in the country."

How it happened: One respondent told the Pete Buttigieg campaign that the former mayor's name wasn't one of the choices he was offered.

  • The campaign alerted CNN and other polling partners, an investigation was conducted and the results were spiked.
  • CNN said: "A respondent raised an issue with the way their interview was conducted, which could have compromised the results of the poll. We were unable to ascertain what happened during this respondent's interview, and cannot determine if this was a single isolated incident."

A CNN source told Axios the amazing backstory: An interviewer at the poll's call center increased the font size of the questionnaire on their screen so much that the bottom choice (which rotated between calls) wasn't visible.

What they're saying: "Nothing is more important to the Register and its polling partners than the integrity of the Iowa Poll," said Carol Hunter, the Iowa paper's executive editor, in a statement just after 9 pm ET, when the highly anticipated results of the influential poll were expected to be released.

  • "While this appears to be isolated to one surveyor, that could not be confirmed with certainty. Therefore, ... the partners made the difficult decision not to move forward with releasing the poll."

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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Biden surrogates test electability argument ahead of Iowa clash with Sanders

Biden at an event in Cedar Rapids the weekend before the Iowa caucuses. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a friend and top surrogate for Joe Biden, said Sunday that if Bernie Sanders were the Democratic nominee, he'd have a "very difficult time" beating President Trump and pose a "serious" threat to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ability to retain control of the House.

Why it matters: On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Biden surrogates are testing electability arguments against Sen. Sanders, the perceived front-runner there, while lowering expectations about how well the former vice president may do in the first contest in the nation.

Buttigieg sweeps Sunday shows just one day before Iowa caucuses

Buttigieg on "Meet the Press" on April 7, 2019. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg took over cable news on Sunday, appearing on nearly every major network just one day before the Iowa caucuses.

The big picture: While his Senate competitors like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been tied up with the impeachment trial, Buttigieg has been free to campaign in full force ahead of the official start of primary season.

A week out, Sanders opens Iowa lead

Photo: Stephen Maturen/AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses eight days from now, the NY Times says Sen. Bernie Sanders is "consolidating support from liberals and benefiting from divisions among more moderate" candidates, per the Times/Siena College poll.

Why it matters: Sanders gained 6 points since the last Times-Siena survey in late October and now has 25% of the vote in Iowa.

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