iowa caucus

How Accurate Are Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary in Picking Presidential Winners?

Every four years, the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary draw so much media attention one would think they are the best predictors of who will win the White House in November.

Since 1976, the Iowa Caucus has been the first major political event of a long grueling election year followed closely by the New Hampshire Primary. The only other primary day to draw similar attention is Super Tuesday when Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia have their primaries and Alaska and Wyoming hold their caucuses.

I’ve had a number of people over the years ask me what is the difference between a primary election and a caucus, so allow me to explain. According to Fact Check:

“In presidential campaigns, a caucus is a system of local gatherings where voters decide which candidate to support and select delegates for nominating conventions. A primary is a statewide voting process in which voters cast secret ballots for their preferred candidates.”

With all the hype about Iowa and New Hampshire, have you ever wondered how many winners of the first two political events go on to win their party’s nomination and eventually the presidency? Data collected from NPR, ABC News, and 270 to Win.

1976 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Jimmy Carter won caucus, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Gerald Ford was uncontested in Iowa, won GOP nomination, lost general election.

1976 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Jimmy Carter won primary, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Gerald Ford won primary, won GOP nomination, lost general election.

1980 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Jimmy Carter won caucus, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – George H.W. Bush won caucus, lost GOP nomination.

1980 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Jimmy Carter won primary, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – Ronald Reagan won caucus, won GOP nomination, won general election.

1984 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Walter Mondale won caucus, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican –  Ronald Reagan uncontested,

1984 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Gary Hart won primary, lost DNC nomination.

Republican – Ronald Reagan won primary, won GOP nomination, won general election.

1988 –  Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Richard Gephardt won caucus, lost DNC nomination.

Republican – Robert Dole won caucus, lost GOP nomination.

1988 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Michael Dukakis won primary, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – George H.W. Bush won primary, won GOP nomination, won general election.

1992 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Tom Harkin won caucus, lost DNC nomination.

Republican – George H. W. Bush was uncontested, won GOP nomination, lost general election.

1992 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Paul Tsongas won primary, lost DNC nomination.

Republican – George H. W. Bush won primary, lost general election.

1996 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Bill Clinton uncontested, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Bob Dole won caucus, won GOP nomination, lost general election.

1996 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Bill Clinton won primary, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Pat Buchanan won primary, lost GOP nomination.

2000 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Al Gore won caucus, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – George W. Bush won caucus, won GOP nomination, won general election.

2000 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Al Gore won primary, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – George W. Bush won primary, won GOP nomination, won general election.

2004 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – John Kerry won caucus, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – George W. Bush uncontested, won GOP nomination, won general election.

2004 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – John Kerry won primary, won DNC nomination, lost general election.

Republican – George W. Bush won primary, won GOP nomination, won general election.

2008 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Barack Obama won caucus, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Mike Huckabee won caucus, lost GOP nomination.

2008 – New Hampshire Primary

Democrat – Barack Obama won primary, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – John McCain won primary, won GOP nomination, lost general election.

2012 – Iowa Caucus

Democrat – Barack Obama uncontested, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney tied with 24.6%, Romney won GOP nomination, lost general election.

2012 – New Hampshire

Democrat – Barack Obama uncontested, won DNC nomination, won general election.

Republican – Mitt Romney won primary, won GOP nomination, lost general election.

The bottom line is that the Iowa caucuses have produced 9 party nominees but only 3 presidential winners (2 Democrat and 1 Republican) since 1976. Likewise, the New Hampshire primaries have produced 10 party nominees and only 3 presidential winners (2 Republicans and 1 Democrat) since 1976.

Based on the history of Iowa and New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, should be concerned about the chance of winning the presidency in November as the odds are against that happening.

While everyone focuses these first two political events, the past results don’t seem all that reliable to me. There is a lot that can happen, and often does, between early February and the first Tuesday in November. Consequently, I don’t place nearly as much stock or speculation in Iowa or New Hampshire and recommend that you don’t either.

 

 

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Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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