"Although the Iowa caucuses are more than a century old, their national impact on the selection of presidential candidates is a fairly recent phenomenon."
--from the Iowa Caucuses website
Winning the Iowa caucuses--the focus of intense interest to members of the media class--is not exactly the kiss of death.
But it's not exactly any indication of future success, either.
Speculation, rumors, hearsay, attacks, and endless polling are studied and pronounced upon wisely. Untold barrels of ink and billions of pixels are employed to spread the latest "news" of Iowa.
The candidates are soberly judged on their performance, their perceived performance and their non-performance from every conceivable angle.
The candidates criss-cross the Midwestern state by any and all means: Fred Thompson by bus; Hillary Clinton in the Hill-A-Copter; and, the other candidates by more conventional means.
The media attempts to read the tea leaves, the candidates press the flesh and the rest of the country largely ignores what happens in the Hawkeye State.
And how have the winners of the Iowa caucuses fared after they left the Prairie State and continued on to be judged by the rest of the country?
It is very much a mixed bag.
Since 1972, in contests which did not involve a sitting president, coming on top in Iowa have guaranteed the winner absolutely nothing.
Of the eight Democrat caucuses in Iowa that didn't involve a sitting president, three of the winners (John Kerry, 2004; Al Gore, 2000; and Walter Mondale, 1984) have went on to capture the nomination.
Four others (Tom Harkin, 1992; Richard Gephardt, 1988; and Uncommitted in both 1972 and 1976) have failed to excite voters in the rest of America.
Of the four Republican contests in Iowa that didn't involve a sitting president, two went on to the nomination (George Bush, 2000 and Bob Dole, 1996) and two other failed (George H.W. Bush, 1980 and Bob Dole, 1988).
Democrats who didn't set the Iowa cornfields on fire, but recovered to secure their party's nominations were Bill Clinton in 1992 (3%), Michael Dukakis in 1988 (22%) and George McGovern in 1972 (23%), all third in Iowa. Republicans who overcame their start in Iowa were Ronald Reagan (30%), second in 1980 and George H. W. Bush, third in 1988 (19%).
Political insiders who hope to gain some insight into who is going to win the nominations can keep a close eye on Iowa.
Or, they could save themselves a ton of trouble and just flip a coin.
* 2004 - John Kerry (38%), John Edwards (32%), Howard Dean (18%), Richard Gephardt (11%) and Dennis Kucinich (1%)
* 2000 - Al Gore (63%), Bill Bradley (37%)
* 1996 - Bill Clinton* (unopposed)
* 1992 - Tom Harkin (76%), "Uncommitted" (12%), Paul Tsongas (4%), Bill Clinton* (3%), Bob Kerrey (2%) and Jerry Brown (2%)
* 1988 - Richard Gephardt (31%), Paul Simon (27%), Michael Dukakis (22%) and Bruce Babbitt (6%)
* 1984 - Walter Mondale (49%), Gary Hart (17%), George McGovern (10%), Alan Cranston (7%), John Glenn (4%), Reubin Askew (3%) and Jesse Jackson (2%)
* 1980 - Jimmy Carter (59%), Ted Kennedy (31%)
* 1976 - "Uncommitted" (37%), Jimmy Carter* (28%) Birch Bayh (13%), Fred R. Harris (10%), Morris Udall (6%), Sargent Shriver (3%) and Henry M. Jackson (1%)
* 1972 - "Uncommitted" (36%) and Edmund Muskie (36%), George McGovern (23%), Hubert Humphrey (2%), Eugene McCarthy (1%), Shirley Chisholm (1%) and Henry M. Jackson (1%)
2004- George W. Bush* (unopposed)
2000- George W. Bush* (41%), Steve Forbes (30%), Alan Keyes (14%), Gary Bauer (9%), John McCain (5%) and Orrin Hatch (1%)
1996- Bob Dole (26%), Pat Buchanan (23%), Lamar Alexander (18%), Steve Forbes (10%), Phil Gramm (9%), Alan Keyes (7%), Richard Lugar (4%) and Morry Taylor (1%)
1992- George H. W. Bush (unopposed)
1988- Bob Dole (37%), Pat Robertson (25%), George H. W. Bush* (19%), Jack Kemp (11%) and Pete DuPont (7%)
1984- Ronald Reagan* (unopposed)
1980- George H. W. Bush (32%), Ronald Reagan* (30%), Howard Baker (15%), John Connally (9%), Phil Crane (7%), John B. Anderson (4%) and Bob Dole (2%)
1976- Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan
Source: Iowa Caucuses - History of the Iowa Caucuses
Wikipedia - Iowa Caucuses
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