The just concluded Iowa caucuses are another strange and antiquated part of our U. S. presidential election system. Congratulations to the two winners, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. Since 1972 the caucuses have been recognized as the first step in the presidential nomination process for both Democrats and Republicans, although their results have never been a very accurate predictor of which candidate will win the nomination.
From 1984 to 1996 the winners in Iowa did not go on to win their parties' nomination, although they did in 2000 and 2004, the latter, of course, when George W. Bush and John Kerry won.
It is strange that traditionally the Iowa caucuses are perceived as so important to the national prospects of the presidential candidates After all, Iowa is one of the smallest states with only 7 electoral votes and only 3 million population, less than 1% of the U. S. population. Only 359,000 Iowa voters showed up at the caucuses or neighborhood meetings to vote for their favorite candidates, just about 12% of the state's population. Many didn't show up because they were working, were impeded by poor wintry weather, or were traveling in other states and couldn't vote because absentee ballots are not allowed. Half a dozen California cities have a greater population than the number who voted in Iowa.
Yet the caucus winners have apparently gained a lot of political momentum as they resume campaigning in New Hampshire for the nation's first primary election on Tuesday. Political analysts have claimed that nomination prospects for third place Hillary Clinton and second place Mitt Romney have been materially hurt, and the widely respected and experienced U. S. senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd have apparently already dropped out of the race due to poor caucus placings. Like many other aspects of our presidential election system, it's not easy to make sense of it all.