GOP Challenger Claims Efforts To Rig Near 100% Iowa Vote For Trump

State Republican leaders did all they could to give Trump a crushing win, including breaking caucus voting rules, former Rep. Joe Walsh said.
Republican presidential candidate Joe Walsh (center) is seen through a window during a campaign event at Riley's Cafe on Jan.
Republican presidential candidate Joe Walsh (center) is seen through a window during a campaign event at Riley's Cafe on Jan. 29, 2020, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

President Donald Trump did not quite win every single Republican vote in the Iowa caucuses, but it was not, according to one of his challengers, for want of trying by the GOP’s state and county leaders.

At some caucus sites on Monday, according to multiple observers, cast ballots were taken out of the room and counted by pro-Trump precinct leaders, rather than in front of all the voters or at least in the presence of representatives from each of the participating candidates’ campaigns. At other sites, there was no secret ballot at all, and participants were asked to raise their hands if they favored a particular candidate.

“The state party did everything they could do to make sure their dictator got 100 percent of the vote, and they almost did,” said former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, one of two Republicans running uphill challenges to take the 2020 nomination away from Trump.

Unlike the Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, who publicly declare their support for their preferred candidates, Republicans mark down their choices on slips of paper, which are then supposed to be treated like secret ballots.

Iowa GOP spokesman Aaron Britt said the state party had not received any complaints about voting problems. As for the issues flagged by the Walsh campaign, he said, “It sounded like some baseless information, and that’s that.”

According to the Iowa Republican Party’s website on Tuesday, Trump had won 31,422 votes of 32,345 cast across the state, or 97%. Walsh received 348 and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld received 424, or about 1% each.

However, at times on Monday night, as results were coming in, the vote totals for Walsh and Weld actually decreased. HuffPost witnessed two instances of this, while Walsh campaign manager Lucy Caldwell documented one case using her mobile phone.

At 9:58 p.m. Iowa time, Trump had 28,287 votes, Weld had 370 and Walsh had 344. Forty-nine minutes later, Trump had 29,658 votes, Weld 388 and Walsh 337.

Helene Walsh, the former congressman’s wife, said she visited a caucus site in Grimes, about a half-hour northwest of Des Moines, where she spoke to someone who intended to vote for her husband, but then did not when the caucus leader asked for a show of hands for Trump instead of passing out slips of paper. Everyone voted for Trump. “If you step out of line and people know, there is pressure,” she said.

At a precinct in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, the leaders did not, as they were supposed to, count the ballots either in front of the 50 voters assembled in the room or before witnesses from each of the campaigns present, said Allen Huffman, who voted for Walsh.

“After the ballots were collected, they just went somewhere,” said Huffman, who is 50 and works in information technology. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they undercounted the alternatives to Trump.”

Four years earlier, he recalled, all the ballots were separated into piles on a table and counted and then the totals were announced right there. “I think everybody in the room figured it’s Trump, so why bother?” he said. “Even the guy leading it was wearing a Trump shirt and a Trump hat.”

Britt said he had not heard of any such irregularities as those described by Huffman or Helene Walsh. As to the decreases in vote counts, he said that was simply a matter of fixing incorrectly entered data. One precinct had shown a total of 55 votes for Walsh, for example, when he had won only five votes.

“There were just a couple of corrections that had to made there,” Britt said.

Joe Walsh said what he saw as an effort to grab every last vote for Trump was just another symptom of the brook-no-dissent devotion that the president’s supporters have for him, and which Walsh’s months of campaigning in Iowa were not able to dent.

“Last night was an eye-opener,” he said. “My party is a cult and I don’t belong in it anymore.”

Walsh said he was on his way to New Hampshire, site of the first primary next Tuesday, where he would push on, at least for a time. “We’ll attack New Hampshire for a couple of days and see what we can do,” he said.