The annual Clinton County Republican Fall Event saw the return of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad on Tuesday evening. Former Clinton City Councilwoman Bette Oakley (left) speaks with Branstad and County Republican Chairwoman Edith Pfeffer at the event at Rastrelli’s Tuscany Ballroom.

Ben Jacobson/Clinton Herald
Herald Staff Writer

Two local women gained nationwide fame Wednesday, after the “mystery of the missing votes” delayed caucus results until the wee hours of the morning.

Edith Pfeffer, chair of the Clinton County Republicans, and Carolyn Tallett, president of the Republican Women’s Club, tired from a long day of caucusing, were contacted early Wednesday morning by CNN reporters  anxious to declare a victor in the Iowa caucus. Vote totals from Clinton precinct 2-2 had not been announced, preventing pundits from declaring either former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum the winner of a close race.

After a long day of caucus work Tuesday, Pfeffer was in bed, asleep, unaware of the unfolding national turmoil.

“I woke up to the phone ringing, the doorbell going ‘ding, ding, ding, ding,’ and somebody pounding on the door,” Pfeffer told the Clinton Herald Wednesday afternoon.

It was Tallett at the door, with news that the precinct’s votes had not been recorded, holding up the announcement of the caucus results.

In a 1:30 a.m. phone interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and John King, Tallett and Pfeffer confirmed Romney had acquired the votes necessary to edge Santorum. The interview, and a subsequent conversation with additional CNN personalities, became the “best live phone call ever,” according to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

• Watch related videos in our previous story.

“What do you mean the numbers don’t match?” Pfeffer asked King incredulously at one point in the interview, coining what will likely be the catchphrase of the duo’s time in the national spotlight.

King had been calculating the total vote counts of Romney and Santorum, who ultimately finished within eight votes of each other. Pfeffer said the counts for precinct 2-2 had been reported to the Iowa GOP much earlier in the evening, but the released information from the state did not include the precinct.

Pfeffer later said she was “overwhelmed” by the confusion caused.

“Really and truly, my people did call this in tonight,” Pfeffer told CNN. “I don’t know where the glitch was.”

Blitzer called Tallett “huge” in solving the confusion, and commended her efforts to reach Pfeffer.

“I guess if I hadn’t answered my phone the mystery would still be going on, wouldn’t it?” Tallett said in response.

Both Pfeffer and Tallett were asked to provide reactions to the caucus and the results. Pfeffer said that the narrow victory eked out by Romney proves the importance of the first-in-the-nation kickoff to the election season. Caucus turnout was strong, if not record-breaking, she said, adding that Iowans relish the opportunity to meet with the candidates.

As for the cause of the mystery of the missing votes? According to Nicole Sizemore of the Iowa GOP, shortly after the vote counts were reported, a statement was made by Matt Strawn, chair of the state party, announcing Romney as the winner. She said that as the results were being figured, it became apparent that the Clinton precinct counts were missing, prompting a call to Pfeffer. As Pfeffer maintains that the results were submitted by 8 p.m., the actual cause of the confusion remains unclear.

Though Pfeffer expressed some weariness at the media attention directed her way, she said Wednesday that the national spotlight is good for Clinton County politics.

“People thought it was very positive, and put us on the map,” she said. “Unintentionally.”

Speaking with the CNN personalities was interesting Pfeffer said. She called the whole experience “exciting,” but said that it is not her intention to seek further media appearances. She added that Facebook fan pages that have popped up since the CNN appearance are not endorsed or created by either herself or Tallett.

Tallett could not be reached for comment.

Both women have cemented their places in political history even though they may not even be aware of it. Though they briefly topped the worldwide trend list on popular social networking site Twitter, Tallett was oblivious when this was brought to her attention by Cooper.

“Not so good,” Tallett said of her Twitter acumen. “I got an iPad for Christmas but I don’t know how to work it yet.”

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