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The Influential Iowa Democratic Caucuses

Posted: January 18, 2016 | By: Rebecca Christopoulos Tagged: From the Campaign Trail

The Iowa caucuses kick off the nomination process in the presidential race – this year’s caucus will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 1. Across the state, dedicated Iowans will make the trek to their local precinct despite possible snowy and freezing weather conditions. The first-in-the-nation caucuses become a media spectacle of the entire country as candidates on both sides of the aisle visit Iowa’s various counties — 99 counties and 1,681 precincts to be exact. Since 1972, Iowa has been first in the nation and will likely continue to stay that way. Now, Iowa may not be the biggest state or the most influential historically; however, its predictions stretch in importance long past Feb. 1. In slight contrast to the Republican caucuses, the democratic caucuses have a long history of predicting the democratic nominee.

A win in Iowa does not always does not always mean a straight shot to the White House, yet for Democratic candidates it certainly has given them an extra push. Just four years after Iowa went first, in 1976, Jimmy Carter won with the majority of the vote and then again in 1980 with 59.1 percent of the vote. In 2004, John Kerry won with 37.6 percent and ran against George W. Bush in the general election. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner pre-caucus (sound familiar?), but was upset by former Illinois senator and current president, Barack Obama. After each precinct reported its results, Obama had 37.6 percent of the vote while Clinton trailed at 29.5 percent. Iowa Democrats have been pretty successful at choosing the nominee. They have caucused correctly all but two times since 1972, in 1988 and in 1992 when native Iowan and senator Tom Harkin won with 76.4 percent.

This 2016 election has proven to be a tight race between Clinton and Bernie Sanders with only a 2-point spread between the candidates in Iowa. With the caucuses only 15 days, this is an exciting time for Iowa’s youth and seasoned caucus-goers. Though Clinton is the party favorite and the likely nominee, Sanders has matched her in support from Iowa’s progressive youth. Whatever the end result may be, hopefully Iowa’s track record of picking the democratic nominee will continue into 2016.

IMG_1221Christopoulos is majoring in politics and broadcast journalism. She was born and raised in San Francisco but had to move to Iowa for sweet corn and caucuses. Follow her on Twitter.