Winners and Losers of the Iowa Caucus

Just How Predictive Is the First-In-The-Nation State?

Jan. 2, 2012 -- intro:

The 2012 Iowa caucus was the closest race in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest's thirty-year history. Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul battled it out, vote for vote, with Romney eventually emerging victorious, defeating Santorum by a mere 8 votes.

But emerging victorious in the first-in-the-nation caucus is by no means a one-way ticket to the White House.

Out of the past 10 contested caucuses, eight of the winners went on to win their party's nomination. Only three of those candidates that won both the Iowa caucus and their party's nomination went on to win the White House as well.

Here's a look back at the winners – and losers- of the Iowa Caucus.

quicklist: 1title: 2008: Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee text:

In 2008 Illinois Sen. Barack Obama became only the third non-incumbent candidate in the history of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus to win in the Hawkeye state and then go on to win his party's nomination and the presidency. He beat Sen. John Edwards by 8 percentage points and Sen. Hillary Clinton by 11 points in the caucus.

It was a far more volatile race on the Republican side. Mike Huckabee took the top spot in the Iowa caucus, although Mitt Romney won the first, and unbinding, contest in Iowa that year, the Ames Straw Poll in August. The eventual GOP nominee, John McCain finished fourth in Iowa with 13 percent of the votes. McCain is the only candidate since 1972 who finished worse than third in Iowa and went on to win his party's nomination.

quicklist:2title: 2004: John Kerrytext:

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry secured the top spot in Iowa in the 2004 Democratic primary. The win was pivotal for Kerry, breathing life into his somewhat sagging campaign and propelling him to another victory in the New Hampshire primary and eventually the Democratic Party's nominee. Kerry lost a close general election to incumbent President George W. Bush by about 3 million votes.

quicklist: 3title: 2000: George W. Bush and Al Goretext:

George W. Bush is the only candidate in history who has won the Ames Straw Poll, the Iowa caucus, his party's nomination and the presidency. At the 2000 Iowa caucuses Bush took 41 percent of the votes, beating businessman Steve Forbes, diplomat Alan Keyes, evangelical leader Gary Bauer, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Former Vice President Al Gore handily won the Democratic Iowa caucus, beating his only opponent Sen. Bill Bradley by 25 percentage points. Gore went on to beat Bradley in every state primary. He won the popular vote in the general election, but lost the presidency to Bush, who narrowly won the electoral vote.

quicklist: 4title: 1996: Bob Doletext:

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole narrowly won the 1996 Iowa caucus with 26 percent of the vote, beating conservative commentator Pat Buchanan by 3 percentage points. Dole went on to win the Republican nomination, but lost the general election to Bill Clinton.

quicklist:5title: 1992: Tom Harkin text:

Nearly every Democratic presidential candidate opted not to campaign in Iowa in 1992 because it was widely assumed Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin would take the state. Harkin triumphed at the Iowa caucus with 76 percent of the votes. The eventual Democratic nominee, Bill Clinton, came in fourth behind "Uncommitted" with 3 percent of the vote. Clinton beat incumbent George H.W. Bush in the general election.

quicklist: 6title: 1988: George H.W.Bushtext:

The GOP nominee, Vice President George H.W. Bush, finished third in the 1988 Iowa caucus behind Sen. Bob Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson. But the '88 election was not Bush's first rodeo in Iowa. He won the caucuses during his 1980 campaign, but lost his party's nomination to Ronald Reagan that year.

Democratic House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt took the top spot in his party's Iowa caucus, but lost the nomination to Michael Dukakis, who came in third in Iowa. Dukakis lost the general election to Bush.

quicklist:7title:1984: Walter Mondaletext:

Former Vice President Walter Mondale rode substantial momentum to a victory at the Iowa caucus. Mondale took 49 percent of the vote, dominating over Sen. Gary Hart and George McGovern and Alan Cranston, all of whom received less than 20 percent of the votes. Mondale won the Democratic nomination, but lost the general election to incumbent President Ronald Reagan.

quicklist: 8title: 1980: Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagantext:

With dismal approval ratings in the mid-30s, incumbent president Jimmy Carter was challenged in the 1980 election by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Carter defeated Kennedy in the Iowa caucuses and handily won the Democratic nomination, but lost the general in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

As an early favorite for the GOP nomination, Reagan opted out of the retail politicking that has become vital to winning over voters in Iowa and lost the Iowa caucus to George H.W. Bush. Reagan regained steam after Iowa and won both his party's nomination and the general election by large margins.

quicklist: 9title: 1976: Jimmy Carter and Gerald Fordtext:

The 1976 election secured Iowa as the hotly-contested first-in-the-nation caucus state after Jimmy Carter used the small, rural state as a springboard to the White House. Carter was a little-known Georgia governor when he entered the presidential race and devoted all of his resources to the first caucus. His win in Iowa upped Carter's national prominence and propelled his campaign on to a victory in both the primary and general elections.

On the Republican side, President Gerald Ford beat former California Gov. Ronald Reagan and went on to win the Republican nomination. Carter defeated Ford in the general election.

quicklist: 10title:1972: Edmund Muskietext:

The 1972 election was the first year that Iowa was the first state in the presidential nominating process after a change in the Democratic Party's nominating rules forced the state to move its caucus into January. Sen. Edmund Muskie tied with "Uncommitted" to win the caucus. Muskie is the only candidate in history who won both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, but failed win his party's nomination.