Beyond being first, what does Iowa tell us? Its track record in predicting the nominee for the Democrats is only 40%. With Republicans it is slightly better, but still only 50/50. So winning isn’t really predictive. As Iowa is not a winner takes all state and the delegates are distributed based on the percentage each candidate receives its practical meaning in the race for delegates is also subdued.
What Iowa does is winnow a large field of candidates or give strength to opponents of a presumed front runner. It has done that. The Republican field will begin thinning now much more quickly. Presumed front runners Trump and Clinton have been humbled. Both will attempt to spin the outcome as a victory for them, but the result was clear that they are not as strong as they might have hoped. Particularly for Hillary Clinton, a resulting 50.15% to Sander’s 49.85% is cause for great concern in her camp.
The attention and hype will now move to New Hampshire. Cruz, Rubio and Sanders will enter that first primary race in the nation invigorated. Clinton and Trump will work hard to overcome the Iowa result. The remaining field will begin to drop after the Iowa contest, but some will work harder as a win in NH can turn things around. Bill Clinton got the nickname “Comeback Kid” after coming in second in NH in 1992.
New Hampshire is also not predictive of the nominee. All of our last three presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama) came in second in NH. NH is not demographically reflective of the nation. It is increasingly left leaning, reflecting the flow of Massachusetts values with increasing migration from the bluest of blue states into southern NH.
Once again, like Iowa, it will serve to winnow the field and humble presumed leaders in each party. The average of most recent polls in NH reflect Trump at 33.2%, Cruz at 11.5%, Kasich at 11.5%, Bush at 10.3%, Rubio at 9.5%, and Christie at 6.5% on the Republican side. On the Democratic side Sanders is at 55.5% and Clinton at 37.5%. The Iowa result may influence this polling data in the voting booth.
The NH primary is only a week away on February 9th. The winner may not be the nominee but the field of top tier candidates leaving NH will tell us much about the direction in this presidential nomination cycle.