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Does It Matter Who Wins Iowa?

Iowa Presidential Caucus Results, 1972-2004


Iowa is the first battleground for the presidential nomination for Republicans and Democrats. How often has the front-runner gone on to win the nomination?

25 January 1972

The 1972 Democratic winner was “undecided” as Democrats sought a candidate to best Republican Richard Nixon. The tally: uncommitted 36%; Sen. Ed Muskie (ME), 35.5%; and Sen. George McGovern (SD), 23%.

McGovern went on to win the nomination, but Nixon took the election, with 520 electoral votes to 17.

19 January 1976

In 1976, the Democratic winner was again “undecided.” In the wake of the Watergate scandal, Iowa Democrats (and much of America) were focused on change. The candidate riding that wave was ex-Gov. Jimmy Carter (GA). The tally: uncommitted 37%; Carter 28%; Sen. Birch Bayh (IL), 13%; ex-Sen. Fred Harris (OK), 10%; Rep. Mo Udall (AZ), 6%; Sargent Shriver, 3%. President Ford did not campaign; ex-Gov. Ronald Reagan (CA) made only one stop.

Carter went on to take the nomination and the election, 297 electoral votes to President Ford’s 240.

21 January 1980

On 21 Jan 1980, Republican George Bush (TX) took 1976 VP nominee Ronald Reagan (CA) by surprise: Bush 32%, Reagan 29.5%. Other Republican contenders: Sen. Howard Baker (TN), 15%; ex-Gov. John Connally (TX), 9%; Rep. Phil Crane (IL), 7%; Rep. John Anderson (IL), 4%; Sen. Bob Dole (KS), 1.5%. On the Democratic side, President Carter took 59%; Sen. Ted Kennedy (MA) had 31% with only 10% uncommitted.

Reagan went on to take the nomination and the election, 489 electoral votes to 49.

20 February 1984

Walter Mondale, the 1980 Democratic VP candidate, was the clear winner in a race with eight major candidates. The tally: Mondale 49%; Sen. Gary Hart (CO), 16.5%; ex-Sen. and former nominee McGovern (SD), 10%; uncommitted, 9%; Sen. Alan Cranston (CA), 7%; Sen. John Glenn (OH), 3.5%; ex-Gov. Reubin Askew (FL), 2.5%; and Jesse Jackson, 1.5%. On the Republican side, no race.

Mondale took the nomination but lost the race to incumbent Reagan, 525 electoral votes to 13.

8 February 1988

In the Democratic race, Rep. Dick Gephardt (MO), Sen. Paul Simon (IL) Gov. Michael Dukakis (MA) finished 1-2-3: Gephardt, 31%; Simon, 27%; and Dukakis 22%. Jesse Jackson made a stronger showing, with 9%; ex-Gov. Bruce Babbitt (AZ) had 6%; uncommitted, 4.5%; and Sen. Gary Hart (CO), 0.3%. On the Republican side, Sen. Bob Dole (KS) won decisively (37%). Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson took second (25%) and incumbent Vice President George Bush was a distant third (19%). Other candidates: Rep. Jack Kemp (NY), 11% and ex-Gov. Pete du Pont (DE), 7%.

Both third place candidates took their nominations; Bush defeated Dukakis, 426 electoral votes to 111.

10 February 1992

President Bush was unopposed, so all eyes were on the Democrats in this campaign. However, when favorite son Sen. Tom Harkin announced his candidacy, the rest of the field avoided the state. Nevertheless, a quarter of those caucusing said "no" to Harkin. Tally: Harkin, 76%; uncommitted, 12%; ex-Sen. Paul Tsongas (MA), 4%; Gov. Bill Clinton (AR), 3%; Sen. Bob Kerrey (NE), 2%; and ex-Gov. Jerry Brown (CA), 2%.

Once again, third place was a charm, as Clinton went on to take the nomination and the election, 370 electoral votes to 178 for Bush and none for third party Texan Ross Perot.

12 February 1996

Iowa was once again in the national spotlight, with Republicans scrambling for votes and headlines. Sen. Bob Dole (KS) won, as he had in 1988. But once again, there was a surprise: conservative TV commentator Pat Buchanan, took second, knocking Sen. Phil Gramm (TX) out of the race. The tally: Dole, 26%; Buchanan, 23%; ex-Gov. Lamar Alexander (TN), 18%; publisher Steve Forbes, 10%; Gramm, 9%; radio talk-show host Alan Keyes, 7%; and Sen. Dick Lugar (IN), 4%.

President Clinton was unopposed and went on to defeat Dole 379 electoral votes to 159; third party candidate Ross Perot again had no electoral votes.

24 January 2000

The nation survived the Y2K computer bug, and the Iowa caucus returned to January. On the Democratic side, VP Al Gore (TN) defeated ex-Sen. Bill Bradley (NJ), 63% to 35%. On the Republican side, Gov. George W. Bush (TX) won with 41%. The remaining tally: Forbes, 30%; Keyes, 14%; Gary Bauer, 9%; Sen. John McCain (AZ), 5%; and Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), 1%.

Bush went on to defeat Gore after the Supreme Court intervened, 271 electoral votes to 266.

19 January 2004

While President Bush ran unopposed, the Democrats had a field day. The tally: Sen. John Kerry (MA), 38%; Sen. John Edwards (NC), 32%; ex-Gov. Howard Dean (VT), 18%; Rep. Dick Gephardt (MO0, 11%; and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH), 1.3%.

President Bush went on to defeat Kerry, 286 electoral votes to 252.

3 January 2008

Both Democratic and Republican nominations are wide-open, with no incumbent running.

Democratic tally:

Republican tally:

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