SOUTH BEND — Pete was robbed. Not by criminals. Not by conspirators. Not by anyone wishing him harm. But former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was robbed of the momentum that should have come on election night from his impressive showing,  arguably a win, in the Iowa caucuses.

Results dribbling in a night later showed that Buttigieg actually led in the first official totals for capturing delegates from Iowa and was battling Sen. Bernie Sanders for the lead in total votes of caucus goers after their two rounds of deliberations.

If the same results had been available Monday night, Buttigieg would have been the big story on television coverage of the caucuses. And his spectacular showing in the first test with voters for the presidential candidates would have been in headlines in the papers the following morning.

It would have been the big story. Instead the big story was about the debacle of the vote count in Iowa. No vote count was available Monday night. Or Tuesday morning. Nothing until late Tuesday afternoon. Even then, not complete returns.

So, instead of gaining the bounce in polls and publicity a winner or even a candidate far exceeding expectations traditionally gets heading into the New Hampshire primary and beyond, there was no bounce Monday for Buttigieg. Instead of positive coverage of a winner, there was criticism of Iowa Democrats for not being able even to add up numbers to determine a winner. Lots of jokes, too.  And why not? There were no results on which to base serious analysis?

Now, with it clear that Buttigieg did have the most impressive showing in Iowa, he is getting some of that positive coverage of which he was deprived on election night. It comes, however, after national attention shifted to the State of the Union address and the impeachment acquittal. He gets some bounce and clearly remains as a top-tier contender. Could it have been a bigger bounce if it began with full national attention on election night?

Of course. Lack of election night clarity also did no favors for Sanders, who would have been able to claim a win in one or more of the tabulations on caucus votes and delegates captured. Sanders had been expected to win, however, so a win proclaimed that night wouldn’t have been as spectacular as the unpredicted rise to top of the top tier by Buttigieg.

The tabulation debacle actually helped two candidates. If the totals had been available Monday night, the poor showing of former Vice President Joe Biden would have been a big story. While he was not expected to win in Iowa, where he got a late start, fourth place was not exactly a boost for his national status as the frontrunner. He has been able to brush off Iowa with focus on the questionable process.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who staked all on an impressive showing in Iowa, might have been on the verge of withdrawal if election night totals showed her in fifth place. With no official word on where anybody finished, she was able to say she was pleased with Iowa and heading to New Hampshire. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, apparently third, goes on still viable, but in real danger that the end will be near if she trails far behind Sanders in New Hampshire.

The end of the road does appear to have been reached for the Iowa caucuses as a traditional first-in-the-nation test with voters in a presidential year. That test needed to include some math skills, such as adding up the vote totals.   

Jack Colwell is a columnist for The Tribune. Write to him in care of The Tribune or by email at jcolwell@comcast.net.