Since 1972—as I’m sure the world is by now sick of hearing—tonight’s caucuses in Iowa have been the first major electoral event on the road towards the US presidency. As I type, media on both sides of the Atlantic are in a mild frenzy of speculation as to who will win in each party, and how much the result will matter. Perhaps most famously, Jimmy Carter won more votes than any other Democratic candidate in 1976, effectively launching what became a successful presidential campaign. But how many times has an out-and-out Iowa winner gone on to lead the free world?
Interestingly, the answer is just once—if you discount the non-competition of a current president standing for their second term, and take into account voters who preferred being “uncommitted” over any individual—and the candidate in question is none other than George W Bush, who went on from success in 2000 to take the presidency. In every other year, free competition in Iowa has failed to endorse an eventual winner. Among the Democrats, as is often forgotten, even Carter came a distant second to “uncommitted” in 1976, while Clinton was just fourth in 1992. Among Republicans, Bush senior came third in 1988, while Reagan was second in 1980.
What does this mean for Clinton, Obama, Huckabee, Romney et al? Beyond the obvious lesson that nobody should read too much into anything, I’m highly under-qualified to say. But for a more expert insight, keep an eye on this blog and our website, where Prospect’s correspondent in Iowa will be reporting this weekend on the heady ins-and-outs of unfolding electoral history.