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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

President Trump's style of politics thrives when chaos destabilizes institutions, and that's exactly what's happening now.

Why it matters: Trump's campaign is already arguing that Democrats can’t be trusted to lead if they can’t even get a couple hundred thousand counts done right, and none of the Democratic candidates campaigning today are boasting of an Iowa win.

  • And the Trump campaign's attacks on health care — arguing Iowa proves Democrats can't be trusted to run big new programs like Medicare for All — are getting traction with conservatives. “No, but seriously, let us run your healthcare,” tweeted Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson.

There are plenty of reasons to question whether caucuses make sense and whether Iowa should remain the first contest, from the state's demographics to how hard it is for people who work at night or have kids or aging parents to spend hours on a weeknight picking candidates.

The problems were magnified this year, first when the Des Moines Register scrapped its final poll because of concerns over methodology, and then when last night's technical problems prevented a release of the results.

  • These issues can be weaponized to underscore questions about the reliability of the press and polls, the caucuses themselves, and, by extension, elections.
“Democrats are stewing in a caucus mess of their own creation with the sloppiest train wreck in history. It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process."
— Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager

Iowa's problems also mask real, underlying concerns:

  • Its status as a swing state is increasingly debatable. Trump won by 9+ points in 2016, the GOP controls the state government, and demographics make competing for its six electoral votes a less obvious priority than some bigger, more diverse states.
  • Meanwhile, many of the candidates, including Joe Biden, have never been poised to perform well in Iowa.

To be sure, the new app and the phone system and the plan to release three sets of data were not ready for prime time. But they were instituting these changes in a good faith effort to modernize, and in no small part because of Bernie Sanders and his backers’ calls to change the old process.

The bottom line: The errors robbed Sanders and possibly Pete Buttigieg of a victory speech, kept Democrats from getting clarity on the viability of Biden and Buttigieg, and opened up a new avenue of attack for a president that thrives on chaos.

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Donald and Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.