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Iowa, NH primary success rate

What do the numbers tell us about the Iowa, New Hampshire success rate in picking the nominee?

The closer we get to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the more interesting it is to look at the historical relevance of those two contests, at least as far as Democrats are concerned.

In putting this table together, what impresses me most is that only three times since 1972 did both Iowa and New Hampshire choose the same candidate who then became the eventual Democratic nominee (excluding the incumbent years of 1980, 1996, and 2012).

In other words, about a third of the time — 37% to be exact — did a candidate win both Iowa and New Hampshire and then become the nominee. The nominees who won both contests were Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and John Kerry.

If we start with the 1972 campaign year, looked at separately Iowa has a better track record than New Hampshire in picking winners. Iowa picked the eventual nominee in five out of eight contested elections, a 62.5% rate of success (again excluding the incumbent races). New Hampshire chose the eventual nominee in four contested primaries, a 50% success rate.

Of course, each contest has its own little side story that is relevant to the relationship between primary winners and the nominee selection.

For example, although Bill Clinton did not win the 1992 New Hampshire primary, the “Comeback Kid” had enough momentum coming out of the Granite State, that he then used this “victory” as a springboard for future successes. Bill Clinton won neither the Iowa caucuses nor the New Hampshire primary but eventually became the nominee.

In an unusual case in which the victor in both contests did not become the nominee, Ed Muskie’s campaign quickly fell apart after the New Hampshire contest. Many believe that the publisher of the powerful New Hampshire Union Leader had a lot to do with Muskie’s demise. The cruel-hearted William Loeb taunted Muskie as weak and “unpresidential” after Muskie cried when his wife had been attacked during the campaign.

Perhaps more relevant to the current campaign is the solidarity among Iowa and New Hampshire voters in picking the same candidate — Gore and Kerry — who then became the ultimate nominee.

Time will tell, but my prediction is that Hillary will win Iowa and Sanders will win New Hampshire.  Ultimately, Hillary will become the Democratic nominee.

For more about Hillary and the 2016 presidential campaign, visit the Hillary Clinton Quarterly

DEM Iowa-NH History