OK, 2015 is officially behind us and it’s only one month until the first presidential primary contest in Iowa: the caucuses. All the speculation, hype and polling will give way to actual voting.
But does the Iowa caucus really matter?
If recent history is any guide, the answer on the Republican side is “no.” Just look at the last two caucus winners: Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012. Neither one could parlay their win into any kind of momentum. This is mostly due to the fact that evangelicals have an out-sized presence in Iowa; they made up 57 percent of Republican caucus attendees in 2012.
The Iowa caucus, however, has been a great predictor on the Democratic side. In 2000, it was Al Gore; in 2004, it was John Kerry; in 2008 it was Barack Obama (in 2012 President Obama ran unopposed.)
The latest Republican polling in Iowa has Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a virtual tie. For the Democrats, various polls have Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders anywhere from 9 to 18 points. Sanders is doing much better in New Hampshire, the second state to hold a primary. In three out of four polls, Sanders is leading Clinton from 2 to 10 points. In one poll, Clinton is leading Sanders by 3 points.
In a sign that it ain’t what it used to be for Republicans, establishment favorite, Jeb Bush, recently cancelled over $1 million of reserved advertising time in Iowa. Of course that hasn’t stopped Jeb’s super PAC, Right to Rise USA, from committing to spend $3.6 million between now and caucus day.
While Iowa will continue to be the first presidential primary contest (it’s written into state law), it is losing its luster as the be-all and end-all of presidential politics. So if you’re Ted Cruz (or Trump for that matter) I wouldn’t gloat about such a win, from such an atypical state. Just ask Santorum or Huckabee.
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