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What matters more: Iowa or New Hampshire?

Iowa may be first in the presidential nomination process, but the state isn't always indicative of who may win the election.
What matters more: Iowa or New Hampshire?
Posted at 9:03 AM, Jan 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-15 11:04:56-05

We in the media make a big deal about the Iowa caucuses because it is the first time — after months of speeches, debates and polls — that actual voting begins. However, is Iowa a presidential indicator, or do the results in that state reverberate nationally?

Since 1972, when changes were made in the presidential nomination process, the Hawkeye State has traditionally gone first in the nominating process. But Monday's process will be a Republican-only affair, with the Democratic caucuses not happening until March.

But how much does Iowa really matter? If you go by history, not much. Just ask Pete Buttigieg or Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz.

SEE MORE: How seriously do Iowans take their 'first-in-the-nation' status?

Each of them won the Iowa caucus — albeit after mistakes with the vote count — but none secured their party's nomination. In fact, only three candidates since 1972 who have won contested races in Iowa went on to become president: Jimmy Carter in 1976, George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008.

However, losing Iowa doesn't mean you're done, either. George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump are proof of that. 

Earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley may have said the ugly truth about early voting states out loud.

"We have an opportunity to get this right, and I know we'll get it right," she said at a campaign event in New Hampshire. "I trust you."

Haley caused some blowback for suggesting that New Hampshire may be a better bellwether for success than Iowa. But, she is right.

Over the last seven Republican presidential primaries, five of the winners of New Hampshire went on to become their party's presidential nominee. 

While Sen. Bernie Sanders won the last two New Hampshire Democratic primaries, he didn't get the nomination — similar to the likes of Hillary Clinton. However, the state did get it right between 1996 and 2004 with Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry. 

So if you hear a candidate tonight thank the people of Iowa for their votes, just sit back and wait eight days to see what happens next in New Hampshire. 


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