Iowa caucuses

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The Iowa caucuses is the first major official contest in the nation for both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. It has served as an early indicator of primary candidates strength since its first took the national spotlight in 1972. The caucus is not a primary (in which people simply vote and leave) but a local meeting that takes several hours to select delegates to the next higher county meeting.

Historically, a candidate cannot win the nomination unless he finishes in the top three, or nearly so, in Iowa.

The Iowa caucuses for the 2016 presidential primary will be held on February 1, 2016.

Iowa Republican primary voters tend to be conservative on the social issues. Rick Santorum won a surprise victory against heavily funded Mitt Romney in Iowa in 2012. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses.

Candidate Scott Walker had a geographic advantage in being the governor of next-door Wisconsin, but he lacked a strong following among social conservatives and dropped out of the race.


Although the Iowa caucuses are more than a century old, they were not seen as a significant means of predicting the outcome of the Republican and Democratic nominations until the early 1970's. George McGovern's success in winning the Democratic nomination in 1972, and later in 1976, Jimmy Carter's winning the nomination after winning the Iowa Caucus gave credibility to the contest.

Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans paid little attention to the Iowa caucus until 1976 when Gerald Ford narrowly beat Ronald Reagan in an informal straw poll held at the caucuses, leading to Reagan's loss in the presidential primary nomination.

The significance of the Iowa caucuses has varied. In 1992, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. Because of Harkins' popularity in Iowa, none of the Democratic candidates chose to compete in the state. United States Senator John Kerry won the Democratic Iowa caucus and later the nomination for the party's presidential candidate. North Carolina Senator John Edwards came in a close second, and later joined the Kerry campaign as vice presidential candidate.

The Iowa caucuses are allowed to precede the New Hampshire primary, which was traditionally the first primary presidential election, on the technicality that a caucus is not an election open for free to the general public.


Historically, no modern candidate has won the presidential election without finishing in the top three in the Iowa caucuses.

The Iowa caucuses are the earliest primary election in the presidential nomination process for both the Republican and Democratic Parties. As a caucus rather than an open or closed primary, this Iowa primary is dominated by more dedicated voters who are willing to make the long trip to centralized polling places in order to vote.

About 100,000 Republicans typically vote in these caucuses.

2008 Iowa Caucuses

The 2008 Iowa Caucuses were originally to be held on Monday, January 14, 2008. But they were rescheduled to January 3, 2008.[1]


Current presidential primary contestants shows the three top tier candidates, New York senator Hillary Clinton, North Carolina Senator John Edwards and Illinois Senator Barack Obama at a close race in Iowa polls. According to a ABC-Washington Post poll, Obama stands in first place with support of 27% of likely voters, Clinton and Edwards are tied at 26%[2]. In 2004, Edwards took second place at the Iowa and has since remained consistently popular among Democrats in the state. Former New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, is the only other candidate to reach double digits with 11%[3]. A NewsMax/Zogby Iowa Democratic poll in late August 2007, put Clinton in first place, with 30 percent, among likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers[4].Edwards received 23 percent support, while Obama received 19 percent[5]..


The Republican Iowa Caucus has been closely tied with a non-official primary event, the Iowa Straw Poll. Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney had held a consistent lead, although the race remained very close to the end.

Date 1st 2ed 3ed 4th 5th
October 17th 2007[6] Mitt Romney 26% Fred Thompson 19% Mike Huckabee 18% Rudy Giuliani 13% John McCain 6%
October 1-3[7] Mitt Romney 29% Fred Thompson 16% Mike Huckabee 12% Rudy Giuliani 11% John McCain 7%




*Went on to win party nomination

Further reading

  • Johnson, Haynes, and Dan Balz. The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election (2009) very good report on 2008 caucuses.
  • Skipper, John C. The Iowa Caucuses: First Tests of Presidential Aspiration, 1972-2008 (2009)

Also See