How the Iowa Caucuses have affected the results of the presidential elections over the years

Incumbent presidents in George W Bush and Barack Obama won Iowa Caucuses unopposed in 2004 and 2012, respectively. In 2008, John McCain bagged GOP nomination despite finishing fourth in Iowa Caucuses


                            How the Iowa Caucuses have affected the results of the presidential elections over the years
Elizabeth Warren (Getty Images)

Come February 3 and the first major test of the presidential election season in the US will take place. Iowa will hold its caucuses and it will be the first major occasion to gauge the mood of the voters. Though Iowa caucuses do not have a good record in picking presidents but they certainly play a key role in trimming the fray. In 2008, the late John McCain finished fourth in the Republican caucuses but yet went on to bag the party’s nomination. In 2016, too, President Donald Trump finished second best after Ted Cruz in his party’s caucuses but yet bagged the nomination at the end and even went on to become the president. The winner of the GOP Iowa caucuses got a nomination in three of eight contested races but only George W Bush won the presidency, which was in 2000.

In the Democratic field, the top vote-getter in the caucuses went on to win the nomination in seven of 10 contested races and of them, only Jimmy Carter (1976) and Barack Obama (2008) bagged the presidency.  The Hawkeye State in the Midwestern US has 99 counties and six electoral votes. In the 12 presidential elections since 1972, Iowa has been won by both the GOP and Dems six times each.

Here we take a look at the results of the Iowa caucuses for both major parties in the last five presidential election years (1996-2016):

2016 Iowa Caucuses:

Republican winner Ted Cruz

In the Republican field, the candidates who ended in the top six were Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush. Cruz got 27.6 percent of votes while Trump received 24.3 percent. Rubio got 23.1 percent while Carson got 9.3 percent, Paul 4.5 percent and Bush 2.8 percent. Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum suspended their campaigns as a result of a poor show in Iowa. 

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucuses in 2016 (Getty)

Democratic winner Hillary Clinton

In the Democratic camp, it was a thrilling contest as Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 0.3 percentage points to become the first woman presidential candidate to win Iowa. Martin O’Malley finished a poor third with a meagre 0.6 percent of the votes and suspended his campaign afterwards. For Clinton, it was a big improvement over her 2008 show in which she had finished third after Obama and John Edwards. Some even alleged that Clinton had won the wafer-thin contest through flips of coin though that was not confirmed. 

2012 Iowa Caucuses: 

Republican winner Rick Santorum

Former Pennsylvania senator Santorum had a very thin win (24.6 percent points to second place holder Mitt Romney’s 24.5) in the caucuses that was never short of drama. Two prominent GOP candidates did not make it to the caucuses: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty who pulled out after a low third-place finish in the Iowa Straw poll and businessman Herman Cain who suspended his campaign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. The vote counts saw discrepancies and while Romney was declared the winner on the night of the caucuses by eight votes, it was announced two weeks later that the actual winner was Santorum and the winning margin was by just 34 votes. Other top candidates of GOP Iowa caucuses were Ron Paul (21.4%), Newt Gingrich (13.3%), Rick Perry (10.3%) and Michele Bachmann (5%). The voter participation was around 20 percent.

Democratic winner Barack Obama

Incumbent president Barack Obama ran unopposed for the Democrats that year.

2008 Iowa Caucuses: 

Republican winner Mike Huckabee
The 2008 Iowa caucuses were unique for McCain who bagged the nomination that year, finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses. Former Arkansas governor Huckabee bagged Iowa with the support of the Christian conservatives. He got 34.4 percentage points while second-ranked Romney got 25.2 percentage points. Fred D Thompson was third with 13.3 percent while fourth-place holder McCain got 13.1 percent. Ron Paul got 10 percentage points while Rudy Giuliani ended up with 3.5 percent. Huckabee’s victory put Romney under a great challenge while financial hardships saw McCain abandoning Iowa months ahead of the caucuses. Total voter participation was 20.7 percent.

Former president Barack Obama won Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and 2012 (Getty Images)

Democratic winner Barack Obama
The Democratic caucuses in Iowa in 2008 were absorbing. The heavyweight candidates in the fray including Obama, Clinton, Joe Biden, Edwards, Bill Richardson and others campaigned heavily across the state. Clinton led most polling in Iowa and across the nation but was overtaken by Obama who was seen more as an agent of change. Obama, a former senator from Illinois, received almost 38 percent of votes while former North Carolina senator Edwards ended second with 29.8 percent. Clinton was third with 29.5 percent while Richardson got 2.1%, Biden 0.9%. Biden and Chris Dodd, who also did badly, suspended their campaigns after the Iowa results came out. Total voter participation was nearly 40 percent.

2004 Iowa Caucuses:

Republican winner George W Bush
Incumbent president Obama ran unopposed for the Democrats that year.

Democratic winner John Kerry
The Democratic field saw a close competition between four candidates -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt. Dean and Gephardt were in a close fight in the campaign phase but lost support as they targeted each other, helping the cause of Kerry and Edwards. Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts, eventually won the caucuses with 37.1 percent votes while Edwards finished second with 32.6 percent. Dean ended third with 17.4% and Gephardt fourth with 11.2 percent. The voter participation was 23.3 percent.

Former president Geroge W Bush won Iowa Caucuses in 2000 and 2004 (Getty Images)

2000 Iowa Caucuses:

Republican winner George W Bush

Former Texas governor Geroge W Bush led the GOP field that year and eventually achieved the biggest victory in a contested Republican Iowa caucus. He received 41 percent of the votes Publishing executive Steve Forbes got 30.5 percent which was surprising for many while conservative political commentator and former diplomat Alan Keyes from Maryland finished third with 14 percent. Gary Bauer was fourth with 8.5% and John McCain got 4.7%. The voter participation in the caucuses was 14.1 percent. 

Democratic winner Al Gore
Former vice president Al Gore faced little difficulty in the Democratic caucuses of 2000. He had one opponent and it was former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley. The latter came up with a progressive healthcare plan that looked more comprehensive than Gore’s and the former vice president’s closeness with departing president Bill Clinton also made him less popular for some voters, thanks to the scandal and impeachment trial the president found himself in. But Gore still won it handsomely, bagging over 63 percent votes as against Bradley’s 35. The voter participation was just below 11 percent. 

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