Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


How Predictive Are the Iowa Caucuses?

Bookmark and Share

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).

Previous post: ABC News / Wash. Post Iowa Poll: Romney Up Big, 3-Way Race for Dems
Next post: GOP Holds on to MN 28B House Seat; But What Does It Mean?

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

Political Crumbs

Haugh to Reach New Heights

The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting