Do the Iowa Caucuses Matter? Ask President Harkin, Gephardt, and Muskie. 

01-18-04 Keavin
The 2004 Presidential election is heating up, with Iowa Democrats preparing to cast their support behind their man on Monday. Howard Dean, who was the presumptive frontrunner for most of the campaign season up until now, has seen his support dwindle away in the past week or so. Kerry and Edwards are surging ahead of him in the polls as we get closer to zero hour in Iowa(if you believe polls). 

But with all the focus every four years on Iowa and New Hampshire because they are first on the election calendar, do these two contests show us who will ultimately win the nomination?  The simple answer is; sometimes. 

It is especially unpredictable on the Democrat side. In the past 7 election cycles only 3 candidates that won the Iowa caucus went on to win the nomination. 

In 1972, uncommitted delegates won the caucus with 35.8% of the vote, Edmund Muskie came in second with 35.5% and the eventual nominee, George McGovern, came in a distant third with 22.6% of the vote. 

In 1976, Iowans again were uncommitted to a single candidate, the uncommitted vote accounted for 37.2% of the vote. Jimmy Carter managed to win 27.6%. 

In 1980, when it came time for Jimmy Carter to run for reelection he managed to win 59.1% of the vote against challenger Ted Kennedy, who won 31.2%. 

In 1984, Iowa got it right when they gave 48.9% of the vote to former Vice President Walter Mondale, who went on to win the nomination. 

1988 eventual nominee, Michael Dukakis, came in third with 22.2% behind Richard Gephardt (31.3%) and Paul Simon 26.7%. 

The 1992 Caucus again proved to give the winner a lock on the nomination. In fact, Bill Clinton only managed a fourth place finish with 2.8% of the vote behind Tom Harkin who won in a landslide with 76.4%. Uncommitted voters came in second with 11.9%, followed by Paul Tsongas with 4.1%. 

In 2000, incumbent Vice President Al Gore walked away with the caucus with 63% with his sole challenger Bill Bradley winning 35%. 

On the Republican side, the Iowa caucuses have been far more predictive of the eventual nominee. Iowan Republicans have only once since 1972 thrown their support behind a candidate that didnít eventually secure the nomination. 

In 1988, Senator Bob Dole won Iowa with 37.4% with Televangelist Pat Robertson coming in second with 24.6% and the eventual nominee Vice President George Bush coming in third with 18.6%. 

What is important about Iowa and New Hampshire is the fact that they usually dwindle down crowded races down to the top contenders and also spark financial support behind candidates. 

But what about New Hampshire? How predictive is this small state that sees more of the Presidential hopefuls than every other state in the union aside from Iowa? 

Since 1952, New Hampshire has missed the mark 5 times on the Democratic side (Estes Kefauver 1952, 56 - Edmund Muskie 1972 - Gary Hart 1984 - Paul Tsongas 1992). For the Republicans, New Hampshire voters failed to pick the eventual nominee three times (Henry Cabot Lodge 1964 - Pat Buchanan 1996 - John McCain 2000).  

So looking at the track record we have to ask just how important are Iowa and New Hampshire, aside from being first in the nation?