With the Iowa caucuses set to officially open the primary election season just after the first of the year, a perennial debate rages inside Republican political circles: Is Iowa all that important.
The state’s convoluted caucus system, which allows a candidate with the best in-state organization to pack the results, produces a lot of hoopla but the winner in Iowa doesn’t always go on to capture the nomination.
Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008. Mike who? Exactly. Mitt Romney finished second and Fred Thompson finished in a third place tie with John McCain. Huckabee, Romney and Thompson faded after Iowa. McCain went on to win the nomination before losing to Barack Obama in the general election.
Bob Dole won Iowa in 1988. Evangelist Pat Robertson came in second. George H.W. Bush, who went on to win the nomination, finished third.
Bush beat Ronald Reagan in Iowa in 1980 but Reagan won the nomination down the road.
Some say a good second place finish in Iowa can provide momentum to win the nomination. Past second place finishers there include Mitt Romney, Steve Forbes, Pat Buchanan and Robertson. Most were gone by South Carolina in the years they finished second.
“Iowa is a lot of hoopla but not a lot of substance,” long-time political watcher Alan Gustin tells Capitol Hill Blue. “Candidates blow a lot of time and money there with little return on their investments.”
On the Democratic side, Tom Harkin won Iowa in 1992. Eventual nominee Bill Clinton finished third. Dick Gephardt captured the state in 1988 but third place finisher Michael Dukakis went on to capture the nomination.
- Gallup: Gingrich surges, Romney fades, Paul drops (capitolhillblue.com)
- Why Gingrich is surging in Iowa – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- WILLIAMS: For GOP, Here Comes Iowa (foxnews.com)
- Four weeks to go: Who’ll take the Iowa caucuses? – CBS News (cbsnews.com)