The conventional wisdom on Iowa has always been that, as a caucus state, the key was “organization”–getting people to endure the process and come out on a cold night. Unlike a primary state, public opinion polls are not a very strong indicator. Based on entrance polling, the conventional wisdom is wrong with respect to the 2004 race.

According to Fox News Channel (on air; I can’t find data on the web), Kerry is leading the pack with 29%, Dean and Edwards are vying for second with 22% each, and Gephardt is trailing at 16%, with a margin of error of 3%. Given that all of us thought Gephardt and Dean had the organization battle easily won, this is interesting news indeed.

What’s really interesting is the internals. Of those polled, 75% of the caucus goers were opposed to the Iraq War, as compared to 24% for it. Dean is the only real anti-war candidate. Yet, even among those polling as against the war, Kerry was beating Dean 27 to 25, with Edwards close at 21 percent. Presumably, the margin of error is slightly higher for the internal (a subset of the 1100 participants). These results conform to the opinion poll shifts of late, but not to the “organization” thesis.

Very interesting indeed.

Update (2041): The new overalls are even more striking: Kerry 31, Edwards 24, Dean 21, Gephardt 15. And these are initial preference polls. Kucinich pledged his support to Edwards (and vice versa) if they didn’t hit 15%.

Unless these results are wildly off base, Dick Gephardt will be out of the race by the end of the week. Having run in Iowa before and being considered the “favorite son” because he’s from Missouri, he was expected to win. I think he could have survived a close finish to Dean given the financial differences. There’s no way he survives finishing behind New Englander Kerry, let alone Southerner Edwards, who barely campaigned in the state. Finishing fourth would be a crushing, humiliating defeat for Gephardt, who has spent the last twenty years sucking up to organized labor and farmers.

Update (2055): Steven Taylor and Robert Prather are apparently watching FNC as well, and have some analysis of their own.

Update (2100): Added to the Duck Hunt.

Update (2159): HostingMatters was down for awhile.

It certainly looks as if Kerry has won a stunning victory here.

Drudge’s numbers:

1,333 of 1,993 precincts reporting – 67 percent
John Kerry, 1,131 – 38 percent
John Edwards, 975 – 33 percent
Howard Dean, 537 – 18 percent
Richard Gephardt, 315 – 11 percent
Dennis Kucinich, 27 – 1 percent
Wesley Clark, 3 – 0 percent
Joe Lieberman, 0 – 0 percent
Carol Moseley Braun, 0 – 0 percent
Al Sharpton, 0 – 0 percent
Uncommitted, 3 – 0 percent

Until the polls of the last week, no one ever expected a New England rich boy to do well in Iowa. The conventional wisdom had his first real shot being New Hampshire. Gephardt is done; NBC (via Drudge), is reporting that he’ll pull out tomorrow.

Dean is too well funded and organized to be knocked off by this embarrassing finish in Iowa, but he’s definitely damaged. New Hampshire voters are particularly ornery and love to annoy pollsters by doing the unexpected, but one would think Kerry has the best chance of winning it now. The wild card, as always, is that Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary since President Bush is running unopposed (by any legitimate candidate; there are dozens or more frivolous ones) for the Republican nomination.

I resisted jumping on the “Dean is inevitable” bandwagon longer than most, figuring that there was no way the Democrats could be that stupid. I finally gave in to temptation; it may be that my first instincts are right. Kerry is a much more palatable lefty–a veteran with experience and a more statesmanlike disposition than the rather rambunctious Dean–and Edwards and Clark are both plausible moderate/DLC candidates.

The excitement factor has picked up enormously.

Update (2212): Dan Drezner was right; he explains why. (He also shamelessly steals “not so much” from either Steven or myself.)

Stephen Green notes that FNC may have a Gephardt interview later and speculates as to whether he’ll just drop out of Congress altogether, since he abandoned his leadership post to run. I’m guessing yes.

Jeff Jarvis thinks Dean is a big loser and links various exit polls–none of which conform to the conventional wisdom. One thing I’ve reaffirmed in my mind tonight is that “conventional” ain’t all that smart.

Cam Edwards wisely hedges his bets:

Will this be 1984, when Walter Mondale captured nearly 50% of the Iowa votes and went on to be the Democratic nominee? Or will this be 1988, when Dick Gephardt won the caucuses only to lose the nomination to Michael Dukakis (who placed third in Iowa)?

Fresh off my 0-4 predictions on Iowa, I will boldly assert that neither Mondale nor Dukakis will win the nomination this year.

Steven Taylor gives a big hat tip to John Zogby. Indeed, it would seem that we would all learn to just go with what Zogby says and be quiet. His track record has been sufficiently uncanny to merit an invitation from Professor X.

Update (2237): I will note that the final order of finish–Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt (KEDG) only differs from my prediction of yesterday (DGKE) in that I flipped 1-2 and 3-4. So, I was at least half right which, by pundit standards, means I was essentially correct.

Update (2243): Michael J. Totten may have to revise his view of the Democrats and, if Edwards wins the nomination, will consider voting for him. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but Edwards clearly gets the biggest boost of all from Iowa. I don’t expect him to do particularly well in New Hampshire [But you picked him to finish 4th in Iowa yesterday. -ed. True.] but he should win a lot of races down South. He now has a legitimate shot at the nomination; I wouldn’t have said that yesterday. [But nothing you said yesterday was right. -ed. Good point.]

Update (2253): Dick Gephardt is conceding as I type. He just said, “This campaign was never about me.” Well, no wonder he lost.

Update (2302): Howard Dean is spinning, as expected, his third place finish as a win on the grounds that a year ago, nobody would have predicted he’d have done that well. Of course, a week ago, virtually no one though he could do that badly. His rant about “On to New Hampshire On to South Carolina! etc.” reminds me of the worst aspects of the Gore campaign in 2000. It’s even more annoying when Dean does it than it was with Gore. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but somehow Dean is less convincing as a black Southern Baptist revival preacher than Gore.

Update (2312): NYT is cranking out stories faster than your average blogger. Of course, they have more than one employee.

WaPo is keeping its powder dry, content with one story for now (at least on the front page): Kerry Wins Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucuses. They probably used all their energy coming up with that clever headline.

Update (2329): Enough already. More tomorrow–in a new post.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    Time for Kerry to take out a third mortgage on the house!

  2. Steven says:

    Maybe Dan should name his blog “Not So Much”

  3. Cam says:

    Hey, I’m not hedging… I’m pontificating!

  4. James Joyner says:

    Oddly enough, is taken.

  5. Kate says:

    Just an observation from a confused canuck…
    wouldn’t this be easier if the democrats gathered at a big ass weekend convention and picked a guy?

    Like we do?

    Hell, if they’re lukcy, they don’t even have to bother going to the trouble of being elected to become Prime Minister. Just win the party leadership and kick the old guy out.

  6. melvin toast says:

    Kate, you’re right. We Americans should follow the advice of Canadians. After all you’ve got national health care and we don’t. Of course we could obliterate you at any moment with our nukes and our tax rates are something like half yours. We kill more Iraqi insurgents before 9am than most dictators do in a year. And Doug Flutie is a football star in Canada but down here he just sux!


  7. Moe Lane says:

    “I will note that the final order of finish–Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt (KEDG) only differs from my prediction of yesterday (DGKE) in that I flipped 1-2 and 3-4.”

    HAH! I had it at 4-3-2-1. If I can consistently pull off this level of complete wrongness, I will be the greatest amateur pundit in the world (cue evil laughter)…