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How Predictive Are the Iowa Caucuses?

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As the first state to select delegates in Election 2008, the Iowa caucuses are understandably considered very important in the presidential nomination process. The caucuses present an opportunity for national frontrunners to solidify their lead as well as underdogs in national polls to gain momentum heading into New Hampshire and the Super Tuesdays thereafter.

But how predictive have the Iowa caucuses been in determining the eventual presidential nominee? An examination of contested party caucuses—that is, election years in which a sitting president is not seeking re-election—reveals the winner of the caucuses go on to secure the nomination just shy of half the time. However, the caucuses have been increasingly predictive in recent years.

On the Democratic side, since 1972 the eventual nominee has won 3 of the 7 such caucuses: John Kerry (2004), Al Gore (2000), and Walter Mondale (1984). In 1972 George McGovern lost by 13 points to Edmund Muskie, in 1988 Michael Dukakis finished in third place (9 points behind Dick Gephardt), and in 1992 Bill Clinton finished in third place (73 points behind Iowa native Senator Tom Harkin). In 1976 Jimmy Carter (28 percent) was the leading candidate, though "Uncommitted" caucus-goers totaled 37 percent of the total vote.

On the Republican side, the eventual nominee has won 2 of the 4 caucuses since 1972 in which sitting presidents were not running: George W. Bush (2000) and Bob Dole (1996). In 1988 George H.W. Bush placed third (18 points behind Dole), and in 1980 Ronald Reagan finished in second place (2 points behind George H. W. Bush).

From Bob Dole (1996), to Al Gore (2000), to George W. Bush (2000), to John Kerry (2004), the current trend favors those candidates who seize first place in Iowa to eventually win the nomination. No doubt this trend is partially due to some correlation (e.g. those candidates who have been successful in raising money before the Iowa caucuses tend to do well there and in the primaries thereafter) as well as causation (the Iowa bounce has undeniably helped some candidates—such as Kerry in 2004, who had previously been trailing Howard Dean in New Hampshire).

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Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Final Four Has Presidential Approval

By edging Michigan in the final seconds Sunday, the University of Kentucky guaranteed that one school in the Final Four this year would be located in a state that was not carried by President Barack Obama in 2012. (Connecticut, Florida, and Wisconsin had previously earned Final Four slots over the weekend). Across the 76 Final Fours since 1939, an average of 3.1 schools have been located in states won by the president's ticket during the previous election cycle. All four schools have come from states won by the president 29 times, with the most recent being the 2009 Final Four featuring Connecticut, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Villanova. On 30 occasions three Final Four schools have been located in states won by the president, with two schools 11 times and only one school six times (the most recent being 2012 with Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, and Ohio State). There has never been a Men's NCAA Division I Final Four in which no schools were located in states carried by the president's ticket.


Three for the Road

A new Rasmussen Poll shows Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in a dead heat with likely 2014 Democratic nominee Mary Burke. Walker is seeking to win his third consecutive election after prevailing in 2012's recall contest. Eight of his predecessors accomplished this feat: Republicans Lucius Fairchild (in 1869), Jeremiah Rusk (1886), Robert La Follette (1904), Emanuel Philipp (1918), John Blaine (1924), Walter Kohler (1954), Warren Knowles (1968), and Tommy Thompson (1994). Three others Badger State governors lost on their third campaign: Democrat George Peck (1894), Progressive Philip La Follette (1938), and Republican Julius Heil (1942). One died in office before having the opportunity to win a third contest (GOPer Walter Goodland in 1947) while another resigned beforehand (Democrat Patrick Lucey in 1977 to become Ambassador to Mexico). Overall Wisconsin gubernatorial incumbents have won 35 of 47 general election contests, or 74.5 percent of the time.


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