A chaotic night in Iowa
Monday was supposed to mark the triumphant start of the Democratic Party's race to unseat Donald Trump. The Iowa caucuses usually bring clarity to the nomination battle and give the winner some valuable momentum. But that's not how it played out this time.
The results were delayed by almost three days thanks to a technical glitch in the smartphone app designed to tally votes. US media say the app was put together in a hurry and was not properly tested.
When the numbers finally arrived, they gave former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg the win by the narrowest of margins. He finished with 26.2 percent of the vote. Senator Bernie Sanders took 26.1 percent. Senator Elizabeth Warren was a distant third on 18 percent and former vice president Joe Biden finished fourth on 15.8 percent.
But the story took yet another twist when the New York Times reported that the results were "riddled with errors and inconsistencies," and the head of the Democratic National Committee asked party officials in Iowa to immediately begin a re-canvass of the results.
By the end of the week, media in the US still were not ready to declare a winner. The Associated Press said there was evidence that the Democratic Party had not accurately tabulated some of the results, and argued that the tight margin between Buttigieg and Sanders and the irregularities in the process made it impossible to say who won.
Professor Paul Sracic, an expert on US politics at Youngstown State University in Ohio, says it was a bad result for a party looking to convince the nation it should be in power.
"In their first big event, the Democratic Party shows they can't conduct what was really a small-scale affair," he says. "The fact that they couldn't deliver the numbers makes the Democratic Party seem incompetent."
Sracic also says the confusion could be a problem when it comes to trying to unite the party faithful in November, as the people on the losing end of the tallies in Iowa might question whether they got a fair result.
An energized Trump
The chaos and confusion energized Trump. He tweeted that "the Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country". He also said that "the only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa is 'Trump.'"
On Tuesday he delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and spoke of "the great American comeback", laying out the economic achievements of his administration.
State of the Union speeches in election years often have a campaigning tone to them, but this one at times resembled a rally. Republican members of Congress even began chanting "Four more years!"
Lower House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listened to Trump's address in silence. As soon as it was over, while Trump basked in Republican applause, Pelosi quietly ripped up a copy of his speech.
Acquitted of all charges
On Wednesday, another boost for Trump as the Senate voted to acquit him of all charges in his impeachment trial.
It was an outcome widely expected, with senators voting almost exclusively along party lines, but it still represented a blow to the Democrats.
Trump was quick to deliver a victory speech at the White House, holding up a newspaper with a front page headline saying "Trump acquitted."
"We went through hell, unfairly," he said. "Did nothing wrong. Did nothing wrong."
The Democrats have stumbled at the start of their race to the White House. Youngstown State's Sracic says the last month went as though Trump had written the script.
But he also says the Democratic candidates have already moved on to New Hampshire, the site of a primary next Tuesday, and when the Iowa winner is finally announced, they can still get their boost.
Trump is only the third US President ever to face trial, but he appears to have emerged from it stronger than ever, and it is his rivals who finish the week licking their wounds.