History Proves It's Still Anyone's Race
Though we're far from the GOP nomination, a direction toward smaller government has already won
January 4, 2012
Attempting to predict the winner of the primaries is a lot like using a crystal ball, and I realized a long time ago, mine isn't very accurate. But if we want to try to make an educated guess, first we should look to history. Isolating caucuses where there was an incumbent president of the opposing party (to give us the most comparable results possible), we have 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2004. Focusing on the challenger's party, the Iowa caucus results, and the following primary results were as follows:
- 2004 Democratic winner, John Kerry – Democratic nominee, John Kerry
- 1996 GOP winner, Bob Dole – GOP nominee, Bob Dole
- 1992 Democratic winner, Tom Harkin – Democratic nominee, Bill Clinton (Note: Harkin won with 76 percent to Clinton's 3 percent)
- 1984 Democratic winner, Walter Mondale – Democratic nominee Walter Mondale
- 1980 GOP winner, George Bush – GOP nominee, Ronald Regan
(Hat tip to Shelby Blakely of Tea Party Patriots for this analysis.)
So out of the contests sampled above, 3 out of 5 caucus winners went on to be their party's nominee. That's a pretty close split. But if you look at 1992, Clinton got only 3 percent in Iowa and still went on to take the nomination.
This quick thumbnail analysis shows that after Iowa, it's still anyone's race. This is even more so because the top three finishers in Iowa in 2012 were within three percentage points. With Romney and Santorum virtually tied, and Paul within three points, the upcoming races still have tremendous consequences. Throw in the possibility of a wildcard win like Clinton's in 1992, and you have real uncertainty.
Most importantly, from my perspective, is that the race, regardless of the candidate of your choice, is a referendum on self-governance, and the size and scope of the federal government. The vast majority of voters believe that government has grown too big, too powerful, and too consequential in their lives. All the candidates are speaking about shrinking government. And all the candidates are talking about returning control to the people.
Who will be the last man or woman standing in the Republican presidential primary? Today, my crystal ball isn't that good. But I do see self-governance, and a smaller, more frugal government in our future. And regardless of the nominee, that's a good thing.