Don't Buy The Iowa Hype

Steven M. Warshawsky
In the aftermath of the "upset" victories in yesterday's Iowa caucus by Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama, both the mainstream media and the political commentariat are in a lather over what these results portend for the 2008 presidential race.   The answer:  Very little.

The history of the Iowa caucus shows that it is a poor predictor of who the eventual presidential nominees will be, let alone who will win the general election.  For example:

In 1972, the eventual Democratic nominee George McGovern came in second to Edmund Muskie.

In 1976, the eventual Democratic nominee, and winner of the general election, Jimmy Carter came in second to an "uncommitted" slate of delegates.

In 1980, George H.W. Bush bested Ronald Reagan in the Republican caucus.

In 1988, both George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, the eventual nominees of their respective parties, came in third.

In 1992, Democrat Tom Harkin won his party's caucus.

Indeed, the only non-incumbent to win his party's caucus and then go on to win the general election was George W. Bush in 2000.

Moreover, we should not forget that Iowa is far from representative of the nation as a whole, either in terms of demographics or economics.  So the fact that a particular candidate appeals to a plurality of his party's voters in Iowa does not tell us how well he or she will do in other state primaries. 

In short, the fact that Huckabee and Obama earned first place honors in this year's Iowa caucus tells us nothing about their respective candidacies that we didn't already know, to wit, that they are serious candidates for their party's nomination.

That being said, I believe the "message" out of Iowa is very different for the Democratic and Republican front-runners.

For the Democrats, Obama's victory, and John Edwards' second-place finish, clearly indicates that Hillary Clinton's nomination is not inevitable and that she has much to worry about heading into New Hampshire and Super Tuesday.  A few weeks ago I offered my thoughts on how an Obama nomination very likely will lead to a Republican victory in 2008.  Go Obama!  http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/12/hillarys_stumble_could_be_grea.html 

For the Republicans, I think Huckabee's strong win indicates that the race for the nomination remains wide-open, and that none of the party's presumptive leaders - Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Thompson - has established himself as the candidate to beat.  I remain convinced that one of these four candidates, not Huckabee, will win the Republican nomination.  Probably Giuliani or Romney, whom I consider to be the top two Republican candidates. 

For Giuliani supporters, among whom I count myself, Romney's failure to win in Iowa augers well for their candidate.  Giuliani's strategy to ignore Iowa may have been fatal had Romney won in Iowa and then won in New Hampshire (boosted by his Iowa win).  Now it appears that the "hype" coming out of Iowa will be about Huckabee, and that, without a boost for Romney, McCain may win in New Hampshire.  This means that going into Super Tuesday, there still won't be a clear front-runner among the Republicans, and both Giuliani and Romney will have an opportunity to make their presidential fortunes on February 5.

Steven M. Warshawsky  smwarshawsky@hotmail.com
In the aftermath of the "upset" victories in yesterday's Iowa caucus by Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama, both the mainstream media and the political commentariat are in a lather over what these results portend for the 2008 presidential race.   The answer:  Very little.

The history of the Iowa caucus shows that it is a poor predictor of who the eventual presidential nominees will be, let alone who will win the general election.  For example:

In 1972, the eventual Democratic nominee George McGovern came in second to Edmund Muskie.

In 1976, the eventual Democratic nominee, and winner of the general election, Jimmy Carter came in second to an "uncommitted" slate of delegates.

In 1980, George H.W. Bush bested Ronald Reagan in the Republican caucus.

In 1988, both George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, the eventual nominees of their respective parties, came in third.

In 1992, Democrat Tom Harkin won his party's caucus.

Indeed, the only non-incumbent to win his party's caucus and then go on to win the general election was George W. Bush in 2000.

Moreover, we should not forget that Iowa is far from representative of the nation as a whole, either in terms of demographics or economics.  So the fact that a particular candidate appeals to a plurality of his party's voters in Iowa does not tell us how well he or she will do in other state primaries. 

In short, the fact that Huckabee and Obama earned first place honors in this year's Iowa caucus tells us nothing about their respective candidacies that we didn't already know, to wit, that they are serious candidates for their party's nomination.

That being said, I believe the "message" out of Iowa is very different for the Democratic and Republican front-runners.

For the Democrats, Obama's victory, and John Edwards' second-place finish, clearly indicates that Hillary Clinton's nomination is not inevitable and that she has much to worry about heading into New Hampshire and Super Tuesday.  A few weeks ago I offered my thoughts on how an Obama nomination very likely will lead to a Republican victory in 2008.  Go Obama!  http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/12/hillarys_stumble_could_be_grea.html 

For the Republicans, I think Huckabee's strong win indicates that the race for the nomination remains wide-open, and that none of the party's presumptive leaders - Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Thompson - has established himself as the candidate to beat.  I remain convinced that one of these four candidates, not Huckabee, will win the Republican nomination.  Probably Giuliani or Romney, whom I consider to be the top two Republican candidates. 

For Giuliani supporters, among whom I count myself, Romney's failure to win in Iowa augers well for their candidate.  Giuliani's strategy to ignore Iowa may have been fatal had Romney won in Iowa and then won in New Hampshire (boosted by his Iowa win).  Now it appears that the "hype" coming out of Iowa will be about Huckabee, and that, without a boost for Romney, McCain may win in New Hampshire.  This means that going into Super Tuesday, there still won't be a clear front-runner among the Republicans, and both Giuliani and Romney will have an opportunity to make their presidential fortunes on February 5.

Steven M. Warshawsky  smwarshawsky@hotmail.com