Lion of the Blogosphere

Iowa caucus history

1980 Iowa picks George H.W. Bush, voting against Reagan. Against the Reagan Revolution. Against the hero to all Republicans.
1988 Despite picking Bush in 1980, this time they go with Dole. Bush wins the nomination with 41 states.
2008 Iowa picks Huckabee.
2012 Iowa picks Santorum.

Conclusion: Iowa has a pretty bad track record of picking winners. They only correctly picked Dole in 1996 and Bush2 in 2000.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 2, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Politics

37 Responses

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  1. So who did they pick in 2000? In the Clinton years?

    Half Canadian

    February 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm

  2. When you look at the actual numbers and not just the binary “winner/loser” you come up with a more complex picture:

    1980- Bush beats Reagan 31% to 29%. Howard Baker third with 15%.
    1988- Bob Dole beats Pat Robertson 37% to 24% Bush third with 18%.
    2008- Huckabee beats Romney 34% to 25%. Fred Thompson third with 13%.
    2012- Santorum beats Romney 24.6% to 24.5% — the margin is around 30 votes. Ron Paul third with 21%.

    In short, I’d say only the ’88 and ’08 Iowa caucuses were WAY off, in the sense of giving no useful indication of how the nomination was going to play out. The fact that Bush barely beat Reagan and Santorum BARELY beat Romney indicates that the contests were competitive, but basically a clear two person race where both candidate had equal shot.

    The figures from this one were Cruz 27%, Trump 24%, Rubio 23%. It’s a picture of a competitive race one state in, which all GOP primaries have generally been at this point, which is only reasonable. Once you stop expecting Iowa to be a magical crystal ball you can learn more useful things from it.

    Trump and his zealous backers didn’t expect a competitive race in Iowa, so they are right to be humbled.


    February 2, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    • I think this is basically correct.
      The news coverage today forgets that the headline coming out of Iowa in 2012 was that Romney won.
      Romney then went on to win NJ by 20 points.

      Unfortunately the sad fact is that Romney under performed with Evangelical voters. This was the case in SC and allowed Gingrich and Santorum to hang around too long.

      Cruz will undoubtedly get a boost of some dimension out of Iowa. Since it looks like almost all the candidate are staying in that might not be enough. Back to back Cruz wins would help close this out early.

      Lion of the Turambar

      February 2, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    • Neither is Iowa’s record encouraging for third place finishers who lack the advantage of being a sitting vice president.

      The Undiscovered Jew

      February 2, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      • I think Rubio is much closer to being an incumbent Vice President than being a Howard Baker or Ron Paul.


        February 3, 2016 at 9:48 am

  3. Lion I’m afraid you are missing the point here.

    EVERYBODY knows that Cruz isn’t going to win the nomination. That is not in question. Cruz has 0 chance of winning the nomination and is no less true today than it was yesterday.

    What we have hear are 2 major issues:
    1. Trump’s underperformance relative to the polls
    2. Rubio’s overperformance

    Now while the fact that Trump was able to get 45000 votes with a non existent organization is impressive, and unprecedented, underperforming his polls is a huge red flag. Also Rubio’s over performance shows that fear of Trump is enough to motivate large numbers of cucks to come out. Rubio turned out more new voters to vote against Trump then Trump turned out to vote for himself.

    Assuming the establishment doesn’t consolidate behind Rubio in NH, and they probably won’t, then NH is a total must win for Trump. Although to be fair, that was already the case.

    Otis the Sweaty

    February 2, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    • Yes, he absolutely MUST win New Hampshire. And by a large margin. A good deal of Trump’s appeal is his cocky swagger, and he lost that last night. Reagan’s appeal wasn’t cocky swagger. He was the Gipper.


      February 2, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    • OTS: “EVERYBODY knows that Cruz isn’t going to win the nomination.” “Cruz has 0 chance of winning the nomination”

      That’s just stupid. Betfair says Rubio 55%, Trump 25%, Cruz 14%. If I lived in a free country or at least one that allowed its subjects to bet, I’d bet for Cruz and against Rubio at those odds.

      But only an idiot would say Cruz has 0% chance.


      February 2, 2016 at 11:14 pm

      • No, only an idiot would say that Cruz *doesn’t* have a 0 percent chance. The man has no crossover appeal whatsoever. He appeals only to TruCons and Christian idiots and there are simply not enough of them to win the nomination. He’s not even campaigning in New Hampshire because he knows he has no chance in any place this isn’t packed to the gills with Christian idiots.

        Cruz’s odds are the same as Ben Carson’s: 0. It is Trump or Rubio, nothing else is possible.

        Otis the Sweaty

        February 3, 2016 at 5:24 am

    • Cruz had 0% chance of winning the Senate seat because the current Lieutenant Governor Dave Dewhurst wanted it and was a prohibitive favorite.

      Cruz is smarter than the rest of these guys. And he has a plan that got him peaking at the right time in a crowded field.

      Read the WaPo article on this data drive analytics in Iowa. He has a plan to win the GE.

      Lion of the Turambar

      February 3, 2016 at 8:16 am

  4. Yes, I don’t get the importance placed on Iowa. They have a history of going for nutty, unelectable religious/social conservatives. I remember Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan making strong showings too.

    February 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    • Buchanan was the last candidate to put a big emphasis on trade and immigration.

      Lloyd Llewellyn

      February 2, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      • Exactly. Buchanan was a Trump style populist focused on the same exact two issues. It’s funny how now all of a sudden it’s a given that a libertarian conservative like Cruz is suddenly a perfect fit for Iowa because he quotes some scripture. Hell even Obama tries to talk like a preacher. Smart voters ignore that crap.


        February 2, 2016 at 11:18 pm

  5. It seems strange that in 1980 Iowans would have picked George H. W. Bush over Reagan. Reagan always seemed much more in tune with down to earth Middle Americans than Bush the uber prep. It’s a further sign of generational GOP prole drift. Republican proles would never support a candidate as Waspy as Bush Sr. now. His good manners and refinement have the lingering stench of class.


    February 2, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    • Who’s fault is that?

      Bush Sr. killed the brand. Good manners and refinement – appoints Souter to the Supreme Court.

      Steve Johnson

      February 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

  6. The republican caucuses in Iowa are essentially meaningless (unlike the democratic ones).

    I imagine there are other states where the primary/caucus is meaningful for one party and not the other but I’m too lazy to think of them.

    It’s almost better that Trump didn’t win (if you support him) rather than go behind such stellar winners as Huckabee and Santorum… Cruz is much more in their league.

    cliff arroyo

    February 2, 2016 at 3:07 pm

  7. As a Scott Adams twist on this, Trump repeatedly said this leading up to the caucus…. “Iowa you havent picked a winner in a long time”

    If he wins… they picked a winner!
    If he doesn’t… Its Iowa, they don’t pick winners!

    Perfect double bind.


    February 2, 2016 at 3:47 pm

  8. cruz is unelectable. his face alone makes him unelectable. he looks like the penguin from batman. people will not vote for him simply because they do not want to see his face on the t.v. trumps target should be rubio, whose surprise strong showing in iowa is definitely concerning. even though the evangelical vote had a strong hand in this outcome, trumps complacency must end at this point; if he wants to win he needs to realise he can’t coast on his celebrity status and personality alone.

    james n.s.w

    February 2, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    • I thing he looks like Grandpa Munster, in a natural-born Cuban kind of way. It’s endearing.

      February 2, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    • I agree that Cruz’s face is not the most pleasant to look at, but he really isn’t terrible looking. His figure is normal. I don’t think he’s especially short – for someone who is at least half Mediterranean racially. It’s basically his nose that’s a bit off. But we aren’t electing a male model in chief. Nixon was pug-ugly, Eisenhower was homely, Truman was nothing to look at either. The men on this website have a fixation that no man looks “presidential” unless he looks stereotypically Wasp. It’s inevitable that sooner or later we’ll have a president that is all or half Mediterranean. And eventually one who is Mestizo. We’ve already had a mulatto. I would think you’d be happy that we still have candidates who are all or partly white! Whenever you think of a President Cruz and want to cringe at his “penguin” looks, just think of this: We could have had President Gilbert Gottfried! Could you imagine Gilbert’s “Afflak” voice saying “My fellow Americans, MY GOD we’ve got a deficit! I told Congress today, what are you guys nuts?…….”


      February 2, 2016 at 6:09 pm

  9. Which leads to the question – Why Iowa?

    Why is America wasting time with these rubes and dimwits?


    February 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm

  10. I checked the winners of the Iowa Caucus since 1972, the Democrats are listed first, then the Republicans:

    1972 Muskie, Nixon

    1976 Carter, Ford

    1980 Carter, GHW Bush

    1984 Mondale, Reagan

    1988 Gephardt, Dole

    1992 Harkin, GHW Bush

    1996 W. Clinton, Dole

    2000 Gore, GW Bush

    2004 Kerry, GW Bush

    2008 Obama, Huckabee

    2012 Obama, Santorum

    Eight of the eleven Democrats went on to win the nomination. That includes three incumbent Presidents, two of which didn’t have a serious challenge for renomination. Of the actual contests, that is a six-three record.

    Seven of the eleven Republicans went on to win nomination. However, that also includes five incumbent Presidents, two of which didn’t have a serious challenge for renomination, and two had only a quasi-serious challenge (Nixon and the first Bush, their opponents never won any primaries). For actual contests, the record is three-four. The three “wins” for the caucus were Ford in 1976, Dole in 1996, and Dubya in 2000.

    So I agree the Republican caucuses don’t mean much, probably because of the grip of the evangelicals.


    February 2, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    • Um guys. Trump beat Cruz among evangelicals. It’s almost as if Ted Cruz’s born again performance only fooled Trump supporters. His voting record and positions are nearly identical to Rand Paul.

      One of my brainy idiot friends like Rand Paul but hates Ted Cruz. He’d be perfect for the comments here. Of course there’s a reason why Cruz got 6x the vote as Paul. Better to identify with evangelicals and vote like a libertarian than vice versa.



      February 2, 2016 at 11:26 pm

      • Oops. Just fact checked myself and Trump did not “beat Cruz among evangelicals”.


        February 2, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      • Some very interesting stats in that WSJ chart: Trump does terribly on the “candidate shares my values” question, he does poorly with self-identified conservative voters, and his strongest issue, immigration, was ranked a distant fourth in terms of voters’ “most important issue.”

        Even conceding Iowa’s idiosyncratic nature, these are the numbers of an interloper in the party. Reminds me of Ron Paul. It certainly undermines the idea that Trump is “far right.”


        February 3, 2016 at 10:03 am

  11. It’s an ok result for Trump when you consider the electoral structure of Iowa, as well as its history, favors surprise upsets for Evangelical candidates. With these advantages Cruz only beat Trump by 3-4 points in Cruz’s must win state, where two thirds of Republican voters were Evangelicals, on record turnout, and where Cruz would still have lost narrowly if his microtargeting of pro-Cruz Republicans was anything short of perfect.

    I doubt Cruz can replicate his Iowa strategy elsewhere.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    February 2, 2016 at 5:42 pm

  12. In the 1992 Iowa caucus, Bill Clinton (who went on to win the nomination and the presidency) got the same percentage as ¡Jeb! did yesterday:

    Tom Harkin: 76.4 percent
    Uncommmitted: 11.9 percent
    Paul Tsongas: 4.1 percent
    Bill Clinton: 2.8 percent
    Bob Kerrey: 2.4 percent
    Jerry Brown: 1.6 percent
    Other: 0.6 percent

    The winner, Tom Harkin, was a popular Iowa senator, which takes some validity away from the comparison. Supposedly ¡Jeb! wasted too much time in Iowa looking for Columba, who got lost after wandering onto a cornfield (a Twitter joke I’m passing on).

    Mark Caplan

    February 2, 2016 at 8:48 pm

  13. Apparently Trump is going to be endorsed by Scott Brown. I don’t know why he’s associating himself with non-entities like Palin and Brown.


    February 2, 2016 at 9:10 pm

  14. And thankfully Trump didn’t fly off the rails and embarrass himself after the loss. That’s good to see.


    February 2, 2016 at 9:27 pm

  15. As I posted previously;

    going back to 1976, here are the winners of the Iowa Republican caucuses:

    1976 – Ford*
    1980 – Bush I
    1984 – Reagan ** (unopposed)
    1988 – Dole
    1992 – Bush I * (unopposed)
    1996 – Dole*
    2000 – Bush II **
    2004 – Bush ** (unopposed)
    2008 – Huckabee
    2012 – Santorum

    (* means won the nomination. ** means won the general election).

    So in seven contested races since 1976, the Iowa caucuses have picked the winner of the nomination in four. Of those four, the only candidate to go on and win the general election was Bush II in 2000. Not such a great track record.


    Iowa and its weird caucuses make a big early splash in he media, but the predictive value of a win is not great.

    Black Death

    February 2, 2016 at 10:06 pm

  16. Marco Rubio is the late sleezy salesguy Don Lapre:


    February 3, 2016 at 12:32 am

  17. If Trump keeps running off about how the question of Cruz’s eligibility should be decided by the courts he loses me. Running to the courts: that’s the tactic of a real pussy. The people will decide whether Cruz is eligible. We don’t need no stinking court to decide this matter.

    Actually, I want a candidate who is going to take it to the courts, put the fear of the devil in them. Attack them, intimidate them. Let them know that they have been overstepping their bounds for too long and the time is now to slap them back. Their days are over. The courts are not an EQUAL part of the government. The courts have their role witch by logic and common sense is subordinate to that as the legislature. They are not equal to the legislature. They have an important, distinct role that is secondary to the legislature, not equal.

    If it turns out that Cruz wins, and the Supreme court accepts some petition to arbitrate the case regarding his eligibility to be president, I’m all for forming a 50,000 man militia that will go to DC and wreck the court. Trash the place, destroy they offices and communications infrastructure, send the girly men in dresses running.

    We will not be tyrannized by judges.


    February 3, 2016 at 12:50 am

    • How Cruz (or anyone) could get this far in a presidential campaign having been born in a foreign country is bizarre, to say the least. As a child, I learned the traditional understanding of the “natural born citizen” requirement for the president. Didn’t everyone else?


      February 3, 2016 at 2:21 am

      • Yes

        Andrew E.

        February 3, 2016 at 9:54 am

  18. How can Chris Christie be so fat after running for President for the last 6 months? A Presidential Campaign requires a grueling schedule of non-stop travel and 18 hour days. The man must eat 20,000 calories a day.


    February 3, 2016 at 9:15 am

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