Special Report

Here’s How Important the Iowa Caucuses Were in Every Election

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Source: Pool / Getty Images

George McGovern
> IA Caucus vote: 22.6%

As the first contest in the U.S. presidential election process, the Iowa caucuses are very important. But while the caucuses are in general strong predictors of who will be a party’s nominee, they are poor predictors of who will be elected president. This was not the case in 1972, the first year of the Iowa caucuses. George McGovern, who lost the Iowa vote to Edmund Muskie by a wide margin, eventually won the Democratic Party nomination. In the general election he lost to Richard Nixon, the Republican incumbent president.

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Edmund Muskie
> IA Caucus vote: 35.5%

Sen. Edmund Muskie from Maine received the highest percentage of the Iowa caucuses vote. He would go on to narrowly win the New Hampshire primary. However, George McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, would eventually win the Democratic nomination.

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> IA Caucus vote: 35.8%

Edmund Muskie’s share of the Iowa vote was the largest of all the Democratic presidential candidates in 1972. Uncommitted delegates, however, represented a slightly larger share, 35.8% of Iowa’s delegates. 1972 was one of only two primary elections in which uncommitted delegates in the Iowa caucuses comprised the largest voting bloc.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.


Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Birch Bayh
> IA Caucus vote: 12.0%

Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh positioned himself as the liberal option to the more centrist Jimmy Carter. However, he finished well behind the Georgia governor in Iowa, and his campaign never gained momentum.

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Jimmy Carter
> IA Caucus vote: 27.6%

Jimmy Carter, former governor of Georgia, received the highest voting percentage of any candidate in Iowa. Carter would go on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency in 1976, defeating President Gerald R. Ford.

Source: Photo by Mikki Ansin / Getty Images

> IA Caucus vote: 37.2%

Uncommitted delegates in the Iowa caucuses frequently make up large shares of the state’s vote. 1976, however, was one of only two years in which uncommitted delegates made up the largest share of the vote.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.


Source: Bettmann / Getty Images

> IA Caucus vote: 9.6%

About 10% of the Iowa delegates in the Democratic Party did not support any candidate for the party presidential nomination, making up the third-biggest bloc of votes.

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