How Important Is the Iowa Caucus?

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Murse, Tom. "How Important Is the Iowa Caucus?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-important-is-the-iowa-caucus-3367521. Murse, Tom. (2016, August 23). How Important Is the Iowa Caucus? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-important-is-the-iowa-caucus-3367521 Murse, Tom. "How Important Is the Iowa Caucus?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-important-is-the-iowa-caucus-3367521 (accessed September 21, 2017).
01
of 06

You Can Win the Iowa Caucus and Still Lose the Nomination

Ted Cruz
Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is worth more than $1 million, according to personal financial disclosures. Alex Wong/Getty Images News

The Iowa caucuses are important primarily because they get tons of ink every four years as candidates flock there for what has become known as the "first in the nation" electoral contest in the race for President of the United States. 

That's right: The importance of the Iowa caucus has little to do with being a sound predictor of electoral preferences and more to do with the amount of attention it gets. The Iowa Caucuses have become almost as big a media event as Super Tuesday.

How important really are the Iowa caucuses? How many Iowa caucus winners have actually gone on to win their party's nomination for president?

Here's a clue: It's not as many as you might think.

Related Story: Iowa Caucus Winners Through History

Republican voters in Iowa have sided with their party's eventual nominees only half the time in the seven competitive races since 1976, according to caucus records. Democratic voters in that state, on the other hand, have fared much better, supporting all but a couple of the eventual nominees since 1972.

So where has Iowa gone wrong? Which Iowa caucus winners failed to seal the deal for their party's presidential nomination? Here's a look at several Iowa caucus winners since 1972 who turned out to be losers in that year's presidential nomination contest.

In the most recent presidential election, in 2016, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won the Iowa caucuses but lost the Republican presidential nomination to billionaire real estate developer and reality television star Donald Trump.

But who were the other candidates who won Iowa but lost the nomination?

Here's a look.

02
of 06

Mike Huckabee - 2008 Iowa Caucus Winner

Mike Huckabee
Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks to supporters after winning the Iowa caucuses in 2008. He lost the race for nomination. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images News

Former Arkansas Gov.-turned Fox News celebrity Mike Huckabee beat out five other candidates in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Huckabee won 34.4 percent of the vote, according to Iowa caucus results data. His nearest competitor was Romney, who got only 25.2 percent.

Huckabee later withdrew from the contest, and U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona went on to win the Republican presidential nomination. McCain lost the fall election to then-Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

03
of 06

Tom Harkin - 1992 Iowa Caucus Winner

Tom Harkin
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin won his party's caucuses in Iowa in 1992 but lost the nomination contest. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images Entertainment

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa won the caucuses in his home state in 1992, beating out Paul Tsongas, Bill Clinton, Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown. Harkin won with 76.4 percent of the vote, not surprising given it was his home turf.

Harkin's campaign later lost steam and he bowed out. Harkin threw his support behind eventual nominee Clinton.

04
of 06

Bob Dole - 1988 Iowa Caucus Winner

Bob Dole
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Dole won his party's Iowa caucuses in 1988 but lost the presidential nomination. Chris Hondros/Getty Images News

Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas won the Iowa caucuses by double digits in 1988, besting a crowded field of candidates including Pat Robertson, Jack Kemp and Alexander Haig.

Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush came in third place, but eventually won the Republican presidential nomination. Bush also went on to win that year's election, succeeding two-term President Ronald Reagan.

05
of 06

Dick Gephardt - 1988 Iowa Caucus Winner

Dick Gephardt
Democratic U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri win his party's Iowa caucuses in 1988 but couldn't win the nomination. Mark Kegans/Getty Images News

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri made a couple of runs for president, but won Iowa only in 1988. He got a little under a third of the vote in a crowded field of candidates that included Michael Dukakis, Jesse Jackson, Gary Hart and Al Gore.

Gephardt withdrew from the race after faring poorly in that year's Super Tuesday contest. Dukakis, a former governor of Massachusetts, won the presidential nomination but lost the election to Reagan Vice President George H.W. Bush.

06
of 06

George H.W. Bush - 1980 Iowa Caucus Winner

George H.W. Bush
Republican George H.W. Bush ran unsuccessfully for his party's presidential nomination in 1980, but later became president. Mark Wilson/Getty Images News

Onetime Central Intelligence Agency Director George H.W. Bush first ran for president in 1980, and won that year's Iowa caucuses over a field of candidates that included Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole.

Bush won nearly a third of the vote but eventually dropped out of the contest after losing many of the remaining primaries. Reagan went on to win the nomination, and the election, after having selected Bush as his running mate.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Murse, Tom. "How Important Is the Iowa Caucus?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-important-is-the-iowa-caucus-3367521. Murse, Tom. (2016, August 23). How Important Is the Iowa Caucus? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-important-is-the-iowa-caucus-3367521 Murse, Tom. "How Important Is the Iowa Caucus?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-important-is-the-iowa-caucus-3367521 (accessed September 21, 2017).