Iowa Caucus to Decide 2008 Nominations?

Chuck Todd argues that the Iowa caucuses will be more important than ever this year while New Hampshire’s primary may be almost irrelevant because so many big states will have primaries soon thereafter.

For instance, if either Giuliani or Clinton win their respective caucuses, they will have essentially won the nomination. If Obama or Edwards can’t beat Clinton in Iowa, they will have a hard time beating her anywhere. Ditto for Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson in their attempts to stop Giuliani. Iowa is easily the toughest state for both Clinton and Giuliani to win, so if they can make it there…

Iowa is a must-win for anyone not named Giuliani or Clinton.

This strikes me as highly unlikely. Because the race has started so early and because the plausible candidates will have so much money and so much media coverage, there’s no reason that Iowa will create any serious momentum.

The dozen or so people who decide who gets Iowa’s two delegates (those numbers are approximate) will meet January 7. New Hampshire may or may not have their primary on January 15. Todd guesses South Carolina will vote January 22. Florida goes the 29th and, as Todd notes, Michigan may join them.

Then, virtually everyone else votes February 5th. Todd thinks this will simply validate what happened up until then. But, because of the compressed schedule, there’s no reason that has to be the case. That’s especially true if someone doesn’t sweep those states.

Let’s say Obama wins Iowa, Clinton takes New Hampshire, Edwards takes South Carolina, Gore finally takes Florida, and Obama takes Michigan. Or, Gore doesn’t run and Edwards takes Florida, too. Is Hillary finished? I don’t see how. Certainly, not if she can take California, New York, and Illinois.

On the GOP side, let’s say that Giuliani takes Iowa, McCain wins NH, Thompson takes SC and Florida, and Giuliani takes Michigan. Does that finish off McCain? Not necessarily. Not if he is still running second in the national polls and can make a strong showing on the 5th.

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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. just me says:

    I think Iowa and New Hampshire will still remain relevant-especially given that the candidates are currently crawling all over the place, although the democrats have hit my town much more than any of the GOP ones-Biden was here for our community day (his campaign was handing out free water, I didn’t feel too guilty taking some). Edwards is apparently doing something down at the high school today.

    Who hasn’t been up here much though are Obama and Hillary-so it may be that some of the third place and back candidates are working NH while the front runners are concentrating elsewhere.

    I actually think what is going to happen is that some of the smaller states voting on the 5th are the states that will in the end get shafted by the heavy loaded day-the tier I candidates will focus on the big state, while some of the tier II candidates may try to work votes in the smaller states, but it probably won’t do them much good.