DES MOINES, IA–After months of stump speeches, town halls, and TV ads, Iowa voters are about make the first official decisions of the 2016 presidential contest.
But why does Iowa still get this first crack at the campaigns, and how have their picks traditionally influenced the rest of the race?
The presidential candidates have checked off all the Iowa political rites of passage, and now voters here are poised to make the first decisions of the 2016 race.
Iowa positioned itself first in 1972, and has held on since. It’s state law.
Drake University Professor Dennis Goldford said that amplifies Iowa’s voice.
“Iowa isn’t first because it’s important. Iowa is important because it’s first,” he said. “Whoever is first by being first, will have extraordinary importance by being first compared to states that come along afterwards”
For some candidates tagged as frontrunners for months, Iowa’s hard numbers brought hard reality.
Like Howard Dean’s third-place finish in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Iowa Democrats did choose Barack Obama in 2008.
“We are one people. And our time for change has come,” President Obama said at the time.
In 2004, they chose John Kerry, winner of the nomination, but loser in the general election.
And the 2000 Iowa winners did cast the main characters in the eventual election drama: Bush versus Gore.
But Mike Huckabee won here in 2008, while eventual Republican nominee John McCain came in fourth.
Rick Santorum edged Mitt Romney in 2012.
And with home-state Senator Tom Harkin running in 1992, Bill Clinton only registered single-digit support.
“Iowa does not pick the president,” Professor Goldford said. “Iowa doesn’t even necessarily pick the party nominee. What Iowa does is reveal unexpected strengths and unexpected weaknesses in the campaigns.”
With a mere six electoral votes in the general election, caucus day will pretty much end Iowa’s 2016 stardom. It may also mean the end for some campaigns. But it’s just the beginning of the process, of choosing the next President of the United States.
The “first in the nation” Iowa caucus takes place Monday night.
For more information on how the Iowa caucus works, click here.