Iowa Caucuses

Iowa Caucuses
An Imperfect Political Weather Vane
• “If the Iowa caucuses meant anything, we’d all be
talking about President Gephardt.” —
unidentified “county courthouse pundit.”
• “Can I shovel your walk for you?” — Former Gov.
Howard Dean of Vermont, putting an arm around
an undecided voter at a diner in 2004.
• Pollster before the 1984 caucuses: “Are you
supporting John Glenn for president?” Mary
Grandon, poll respondent: “I don’t know. I haven’t
met him yet.”
Timeline: How Iowa Rose to
1846: The fix is in Party insiders in the soon-to-be state of Iowa control the
selection of national delegates through a system of springtime caucuses.
1968: Disgust over the “smoke-filled room” After President Lyndon B. Johnson
declines to run and Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York is assassinated, Vice
President Hubert H. Humphrey is nominated without competing in the primaries,
at a Democratic convention in Chicago marred by violent anti-Vietnam War
1972: First in the nation The debacle of 1968 prompts a Democratic reform effort
co-led by Senator George McGovern of South Dakota. Iowa adopts a more open
caucus process starting in January, before even the first primary, New Hampshire’s.
Senator McGovern exploits the rules he rewrote. He beats expectations, behind
“uncommitted” and Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, and goes on to win the
1976: Jimmy who? Former Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia bests more than a dozen
Democratic rivals (though also behind “uncommitted”) in a low-key campaign of
homespun doggedness in which he makes meatloaf on a local talk show. Iowa
Republicans move their caucus to the same early date as that of Democrats to
share the media’s growing attention.
Timeline: How Iowa Rose to
• 1980: “Big mo” The front-runner, Ronald Reagan, takes Iowa for
granted and George Bush wins. Mr. Bush claims “big mo,” or
momentum, but that helps him win only the No. 2 spot on the
eventually victorious Reagan ticket.
• 1984: More mo The Democrats shorten the time between Iowa and
New Hampshire from a month to a week, increasing the chances for
a momentum candidacy. Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, who
helped shape Senator McGovern’s 1972 Iowa strategy, finishes
second in the caucuses and wins in New Hampshire.
• 1988: Less mo Vice President Bush is himself caught off guard in
Iowa by a new force in G.O.P. politics: evangelical Christians, led by
Pat Robertson, a televangelist who finishes second behind Senator
Bob Dole of Kansas. Still, Mr. Bush goes on to win the presidency.
Timeline: How Iowa Rose to
• 2004: I have a scream Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont looks
a shoo-in with his strong opposition to the Iraq war and pioneering
use of the Internet. But the faltering Senator John Kerry of
Massachusetts bets everything on Iowa and wins. Mr. Dean delivers
a defiant speech with an off-putting, “Yeahhhh!”
• 2008: Yes, he could Senator Barack Obama defeats both Senator
John Edwards of North Carolina, who campaigned almost
exclusively in Iowa, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New
York, the seemingly inevitable Democratic nominee. The Republican
front-runner, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, is
derailed by evangelical Christians, who back former Gov. Mike
Huckabee of Arkansas. Later, Senator John McCain of Arizona
resurrects his campaign and wins the nomination, a rare case of a
party nominee’s not winning one of “only three tickets out of Iowa”
— first, second or third place.
Pre-Caucus Expectations
vs. Results
Pre-Caucus Expectations
vs. Results
538 has calculated,
(from polls through
Friday afternoon)
each candidate’s
chances of winning
the caucuses.
WP Graphics
Tales from the campaign trail
IA Caucus Participants
IA Caucus History
Who’s spending time in IA?
NH Primary History
NH Primary Voters
Who’s spending time in New
SC Primary History
SC Primary Voters

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