I've been alive as long as the Iowa Caucus has been a thing so I have some insight into this:
- As my grandfather puts it "It isn't about voting for the winner but killing the crazies" where if he was alive today he might change that stance. Seeing someone like Huntsman, a reasonable and very respectable Republican, come in last by the last field of crazies like Santorum and Gingrich is sad. In any event, Iowa and New Hampshire aren't necessarily about picking winners but weeding out the weaker candidates.
- Part of the magic of the Iowa Caucus is that it is so low tech (which is why I am skeptical of Microsoft's efforts). It doesn't take much money or a very large organization to have at least a start at campaign which is just not feasible in super large states. On the other side, someone could step out of the office to get lunch and meet a candidate heading to the same place maybe to campaign or maybe to get a bite to eat. You don't necessarily believe everything they say but actually getting up close and personal to candidates and gauge their response to questions is always interesting.
- The issue mentioned happened with the Republican side where they do a "straightforward" ballot which can be error prone where adding a little tech to the may or may not help. The Democrat use a more formulaic process where it often takes multiple counts to get the result (details on Wikipedia for those who are curious). Personally I find the Democratic process more fun and interesting than just the Republican straight ballot because it feels a lot more like "a process of selection" than "a show up and vote".
And to those that wonder about the entire thing I can only say: With this Constitutional process, it has to start somewhere. I believe that having smaller places "go first" balances out the handful of gigantic states that have sway over outcome. With that in mind using Iowa (Midwest), New Hampshire (North East), Nevada (West), and South Carolina (South East) are a sampling of the US on the whole. It could be argued another set of states would be better where I'd love to see further suggestions on reform but the idea that states like Florida need more influence is kind of wonky.