Since it’s the first stop on the primary tour, Iowa always gets a lot of attention from both parties. Some consider it to be a litmus test for future success. Others simply look at it as the point from which momentum can be truly built. In reality, it’s relatively meaningless… except for next year.
In 2016, Iowa means a lot. Here’s why.
“Winning” Iowa is relative. It’s not really a matter of winning or losing the state as much as it is about placing well enough to get delegates. We can look at Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008 to know that the Iown “winner” isn’t necessarily the front runner in the overall race. Santorum was the second to last man standing before Mitt Romney finally knocked him out, but Huckabee fell quickly after his initial Iowa victory.
The overall picture of Iowa can tell us who the real players are. That normally isn’t a very big deal because there are normally only four to six realistic contenders, but the race this year is, of course, packed. We can expect a handful to pop out, but there will likely still be double digits as far as major candidates. That means that placing in the top three in Iowa this year is a crucial step towards eventual victory.
We also have the non-politician factor that’s more powerful this year than ever before. Steve Forbes placed well in 2000 with over 30% of the Iowa vote compared to 40% for George W. Bush, but otherwise there hasn’t really been a major DC outside make a run at the Republican nomination. This year, there’s at least two and possibly three if Carly Fiorina can hold on to the #3 spot.
The two serious contenders are currently neck and neck in Iowa. It’s way too early to consider this anything other than a distant placeholder of possibilities, but it tells us one important thing: outsiders are in this year. The people are sick of politicians and much of the Republican base is sick of ineffectiveness from their chosen leaders. We gave them the House and the Senate and very little has changed in Congress since.
Now, the biggest threat to Republican hopes to retake the White House in 2016 is division. That division might come in the form of Trump. It might come because we have too many candidates sticking it out too long. Iowa may be enough to convince poor candidates from lingering.
This year, Iowa could help to bring the count down to a manageable level. If we can emerge from the first four contests with five or six candidates, there’s a chance that we’ll make it through the divisions within the party. If not, we might be stuck with another four years of Democratic rule in the executive branch.