But the Iowa Republican caucuses have a poor record in choosing their party’s nominees. In the five presidential nominating cycles with active Iowa Republican caucus competition, the Hawkeye State has voted for the eventual Republican nominee only twice—in 1996 for Bob Dole, in 2000 for George W. Bush—and only once was the Iowa winner elected president.
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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been complaining for months that too few Republican presidential candidates in this cycle have been spending time in the state, doing retail campaigning in all or some substantial percentage of Iowa’s 99 counties. True enough, Rick Santorum has done events in all 99 and Michele Bachmann is on a bus tour that will take her to all 99 too. But both Rick Perry and Herman Cain jumped to leads in Iowa polls without much personal campaigning there.
If I were running the Iowa Republican Party, I would be seeking to vastly increase the turnout at the Jan. 3 caucuses. After all, those who turn out can be recruited to help in future Iowa Republican campaigns. I would be especially interested in attracting new young voters; the median age of 2008 caucusgoers was nudging up toward 60.
Yet despite polls showing that Republicans are enthusiastic about the coming campaign and determined to defeat Barack Obama, Iowa Republican insiders are predicting that turnout will not exceed and may not even reach the 119,000 of 2008, when Republicans were dispirited about their party’s chances. Puzzling.
One thing I take away, I don’t think most people would want their candidate to win in Iowa. Probably better to do well in South Carolina and New Hampshire, both of which have a better record of actually choosing the Republican nominee.