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Clinton County Determines Iowa Caucuses Winner


About 200 miles from Des Moines, the Republican chair of Clinton County was fast asleep as state officials waited for the final votes in the caucuses. As it turns out, the final votes were needed from the second ward, second precinct, the 2-2 in Clinton County.


With Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in a dead heat, the votes were crucial from that precinct. So before midnight, the Romney campaign picked up the phone and called Edith Pfeffer to get those numbers. Republican leaders in Des Moines did not have those results, apparently because of some computer trouble.

WERTHEIMER: We reached the chairwoman of the Clinton County Republican Party to hear her tell the story, and her friend Carolyn Tallet was with her. Tallet is president of the Clinton County Republican Women's Club. She starts us off by explaining they knew it would be a tight race, but had no idea they'd end up at the center of the story.

CAROLYN TALLET: I knew it was close, because I was sitting, watching CNN, waiting to find out the results. I kept wishing, gosh, I wish we would get those last precincts in. But they didn't announce, you know, who was holding up the count. It was just that they weren't all in yet.

EDITH PFEFFER: I had received a phone call - this is Edith. I had received a phone call about 11:20 from the Romney worker who had been working in our county. And he said he needed the count. And I said, well, why do you need the count for 2-2? And he said, well, they don't have it in Des Moines. And I said, but I know they were called in. And he said, well, I think that there was a computer glitch, that the computers went down. And I said, oh, OK. And so I gave him the requested numbers.

And - but he had woke me up. And then I went back and crawled into bed in another bedroom and I don't happen to have a phone by that particular...


WERTHEIMER: So you missed - then you missed the rest of the calls?

PFEFFER: I missed the rest of the phone calls. And I woke up and the phone was ringing and I thought well, what is going on here? And the next thing I knew the doorbell started ringing.


PFEFFER: And, you know, you cringe a little bit. And then the next thing I knew someone was pounding on the windows and I thought, what is going on? And I got up to see Carolyn running in my front yard.


WERTHEIMER: So you - the two of you had to sort this thing out for the Central folks in Des Moines?

TALLET: Yeah. It seems like it.


PFEFFER: At that point Carolyn said we needed to call state party headquarters. So I got out of bed and came into the other room where the phone was and the figure sheet - the sheet with all the data for the evening, and made the phone call. Didn't have my glasses on. I had to go get my glasses because then he wanted me...


PFEFFER: ...to pick out a particular form. So I had to go and that particular Precinct 2-2 is the precinct that was missing, and we both met at Washington Middle School.

WERTHEIMER: Oh, my gosh. And then, so...

PFEFFER: I had the paperwork home with me because I had sat down there and after my caucus was done and I continued to take the phone calls from the various precincts in the county as they called in their numbers.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, this missing Precinct 2-2, where is it?

PFEFFER: It's in the city of Clinton.

WERTHEIMER: So you were just right there. You could've run over and found the chairman if you'd had to.

PFEFFER: Oh, yeah. And they had given me the figures as they went out the door.


PFEFFER: The lady who called them in had called me and then she came up and went out the door where I was sitting and said, thank you. I've got it all called in. Everything is taken care of. Good night.


WERTHEIMER: Well, now did you expect it to come out this way, as a duel between Santorum and Romney?

PFEFFER: The last 24 hours I was aware, actually probably the last 48 hours as I saw Rick Santorum rising in the polls.

WERTHEIMER: So does everybody stick around to see how it came out, or do they just vote and leave?

PFEFFER: Oh no. A few - there were probably two people that got up as soon as they had handed it in. But usually they wait until the votes are counted.

WERTHEIMER: And so did your own precinct - did Clinton County come out the way thought it would?

PFEFFER: I really thought that Ron Paul was going to a do a little better than he did tonight.

WERTHEIMER: So who won in Clinton County?

TALLET: Romney.


TALLET: And Santorum was second. And Ron Paul was third.

WERTHEIMER: So as Clinton goes, so goes Iowa?

PFEFFER: It looks like it. Looks like it.


WERTHEIMER: Well, it sounds like you had an exciting - if sleepless - evening.

PFEFFER: It was. It was kind of interesting.


PFEFFER: Especially to be watching for the results on CNN and then be a part of helping get the results.

WERTHEIMER: That's great. Well, thank you both so much.

PFEFFER: You're welcome. Thank you.

TALLET: You're welcome. Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: Carolyn Tallet is president of the Clinton County Republican Women's Club. Edith Pfeffer is chair of the Clinton County Republican Central Committee.


WERTHEIMER: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.