The Iowa caucuses are biennial electoral events for members of the Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S. state of Iowa. Unlike primary elections in most other U.S. states where registered voters go to polling places to cast ballots, Iowans instead gather at local caucus meetings to discuss and vote on the candidates. During both the presidential and midterm election seasons, registered Iowan voters vote in a per-precinct caucus for the party they are registered as a member. The caucuses are also held to select delegates to county conventions and party committees, among other party activities.
The Iowa caucuses are noteworthy as the first major contest of the United States presidential primary season. Though the demographics of Iowa are not representative of the rest of the country, the caucuses are still seen as a strong indicator for how a presidential candidate will do in later contests. It can provide candidates with momentum going into the following contests. Candidates who do poorly in their caucus are likely to drop out in the following days.
Political parties in Iowa have used caucuses to select party leaders and candidates for office since the 1800s. Before 1907, parties selected all candidates for political office through the caucus system. Iowa held a presidential primary in 1916, but returned to the caucus system in 1917 due to high costs and low participation.
After the 1968 Democratic National Convention protest activity, the Democratic Party decided to make changes to their presidential nominating process by spreading out the schedule in each state. Since Iowa had a complex process of precinct caucuses, county conventions, district conventions, and a state convention, they chose to start early. In 1972, Iowa was the first state to hold their Democratic caucus, and had the first Republican caucus four years later.
Under Iowa law, political parties are required to hold caucuses every two years to select delegates to county conventions and party committees.
The Iowa Caucuses operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states (see U.S. presidential primary). The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1,681 precincts. Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, public libraries and even individuals' houses. Caucuses are held every two years, during both the presidential and midterm election seasons, but the ones that receive national attention are the presidential preference caucuses held every four years. The rules of the caucus process to determine delegates to national conventions are determined entirely by the party, and differ substantially between the Democratic and Republican parties.
In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers begin the process of writing their parties' platforms by introducing resolutions.
Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes. Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a preference group). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.
After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are viable. Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the viability threshold is 15% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to realign: the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This realignment is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's second candidate of choice can help a candidate.
When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media. Most of the participants go home, leaving a few to finish the business of the caucus: each preference group elects its delegates, and then the groups reconvene to elect local party officers and discuss the platform. The delegates chosen by the precinct then go to a later caucus, the county convention, to choose delegates to the district convention and state convention. Most of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are selected at the district convention, with the remaining ones selected at the state convention. Delegates to each level of convention are initially bound to support their chosen candidate but can later switch in a process very similar to what goes on at the precinct level; however, as major shifts in delegate support are rare, the media declares the candidate with the most delegates on the precinct caucus night the winner, and relatively little attention is paid to the later caucuses.
In 2014, the Iowa Democratic Party announced changes to the caucus system that will allow members of the military to participate in a statewide caucus and establish satellite caucuses for the disabled and others who have trouble making it to the physical location of the caucuses. They will also work for the passage of a new law that requires employers to allow employees to take time off for the caucuses.
In 2016, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) held a Tele-Caucus for military members serving out-of-state and Iowans living abroad. In addition, the IDP held Satellite Caucuses in 2016, in an attempt to improve accessibility and participation in the Iowa Caucuses. Starting in 2020, 10% of state convention delegates will be assigned through tele-caucuses.
For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus previously followed (but should not be confused with) the Iowa Straw Poll in August of the preceding year. The winner of the Straw Poll has failed to win the Iowa caucuses in 1986, 2006, and 2010. In June 2014, the party announced that the Straw Poll would no longer take place.
The process of selecting Iowa delegates to the Republican National Convention prior to the 2016 election cycle started with selection of delegates to the county conventions, which in turn affected the delegates elected to district conventions who also served as delegates to the state convention where delegates were chosen for the national convention.
This process rewarded candidate organizers who not only got supporters to the caucus sites but also got supporters willing to serve as delegates to county conventions and willing to vote for other delegates who supported a specific candidate. In 2012, this process resulted in Ron Paul supporters dominating the Iowa delegation to the Republican National Convention, having 22 of the 28 Iowa delegates, with Mitt Romney getting the other six delegates.
Because the delegates elected at the caucuses are not required to declare a candidate preference, the media does not always have a purely objective way to determine the success of individual candidates at the caucuses. The media focused on the secret ballot polling conducted at the caucus sites and have generally referred to this non-binding poll as the caucus. There were irregularities in the 2012 caucus site polling results, including the fact that eight precinct results went missing and were never counted.
Because of the irregularities in the process and the fact that the totals reported to the media were unrelated to the delegate selection process, there have been changes in both how the caucus site secret ballot polling is sent to state party headquarters and in how Iowa delegates to the national convention are required to vote.
Beginning with the 2012 Presidential election, Iowa switched from the old winner-take-all allocation to proportional allocation. The change was made to prolong the race, giving lesser known candidates a chance and making it harder for a frontrunner to secure the majority early. It was also hoped that this change in the election system would energize the base of the party.
Starting in 2016, caucus results have become binding when selecting delegates. Acting in accordance with a mandate from the Republican National Committee, the delegates are bound on the first ballot to vote for candidates in proportion to the votes cast for each candidate at the caucus sites.
Since 1972, the Iowa caucuses have had a 43% success rate at predicting which Democrat, and a 50% success rate at predicting which Republican will go on to win the nomination of their political party for president at that party's national convention.
Since Republican President George W. Bush did not face any opposition in 2004, only Democratic caucuses were held. The meetings ran from 6:30 p.m. until approximately 7:00 p.m. on January 19, 2004, with a turnout of about 124,000 caucus-goers. The county convention occurred on March 13, the district convention on April 24, and the state convention on June 26. Delegates could and did change their votes based on further developments in the race; for instance, in 2004 the delegates pledged to Dick Gephardt, who left the race after the precinct caucuses, chose a different candidate to support at the county, district, and state level.
The number of delegates each candidate receives eventually determines how many state delegates from Iowa that candidate will have at the Democratic National Convention. Iowa sends 56 delegates to the DNC out of a total 4,366.
Of the 45 delegates that were chosen through the caucus system, 29 were chosen at the district level. Ten delegates were at-large delegates, and six were "party leader and elected official" (PLEO) delegates; these were assigned at the state convention. There were also 11 other delegates, eight of whom were appointed from local Democratic National Committee members; two were PLEO delegates and one was elected at the state Democratic convention. John Kerry won the Iowa caucuses with 37.64% of the vote, John Edwards coming second.
The 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses and 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses took place January 3 at 7 p.m. CT. Candidates spent tens of millions of dollars on local television advertisements and hundreds of paid staff in dozens of field offices. Barack Obama (D) and Mike Huckabee (R) were the eventual winners.
The 2012 Iowa caucuses took place on Tuesday, January 3, starting at 7 p.m. CST. Incumbent president Barack Obama only faced minor opposition in the Democratic caucus and received 98% of the vote, but the Republican caucus was heavily contested between several challengers. Initial results reported that Mitt Romney beat out Rick Santorum by just 8 votes, but when the final results came out two weeks later Rick Santorum secured the victory over Romney by a margin of 34 votes with Ron Paul in a strong 3rd. Results were certified by the Caucus, but not by the Republican party, who declared it a split decision due to missing reports from 8 precincts, but who later certified the caucus as a win for Santorum. The caucus winner changed yet again when the Iowa delegate totals were finally determined giving Ron Paul the win along with several other states that same weekend.
The 2016 Iowa caucuses took place on Monday, February 1. The counting started at 7 p.m. CST and lasted one hour, after the caucus discussions. For the first time, results were electronically sent to both Democratic and Republican headquarters.
In the Democratic caucus, Hillary Clinton received 49.84% of the vote and 23 pledged delegates, narrowly defeating Bernie Sanders with 49.59% and 21 delegates. The Republican caucus awarded delegates to nine candidates: 8 to Ted Cruz, with 27.6% of the vote; 7 each to Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, with 24.3% and 23.1% respectively; 3 to Ben Carson, with 9.3%; and 1 delegate each to five other candidates.
The 2020 Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Monday, February 3.
Note: Candidates in bold eventually won their party's nomination. Candidates also in italics subsequently won the general election.
The 1980 Democratic presidential primaries were the selection process by which voters of the Democratic Party chose its nominee for President of the United States in the 1980 U.S. presidential election. Incumbent President Jimmy Carter was again selected as the nominee through a series of primary elections and caucuses culminating in the 1980 Democratic National Convention held from August 11 to August 14, 1980, in New York City.2000 Iowa Republican caucuses
The 2000 Iowa Republican caucuses took place on January 24, 2000. The Iowa Republican caucuses are an unofficial primary, with the delegates to the state convention selected proportionally via a straw poll. The Iowa caucuses marked the traditional formal start of the delegate selection process for the 2000 United States presidential election.
Prior to the 2000 caucuses, as in previous election cycles with a competitive presidential race, an unofficial Ames Straw Poll was held, on August 14, 1999. The official one, electing delegates to the state convention, was held on January 24, 2000, the same day as the Democratic contest. In the Ames Straw Poll, George W. Bush finished first with 31% of the vote. In the January 2000 caucuses, Bush again finished first with 41% of the vote.2004 District of Columbia Democratic primary
The 2004 District of Columbia primary was held on January 13, 2004 a week before the Iowa caucuses. Early favorite Howard Dean won the primary. Polling 2 months before had him leading civil rights activist Al Sharpton 45% to 11%. Then his poll numbers went down considerably, to 27% to 5%. The other candidates, John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, were not on the ballot. Dean benefited from the endorsement of popular councilman Jack Evans. Following the primary, Carol Moseley Braun dropped out of the race and endorsed Dean.2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses
The Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus occurred on January 3, 2008, and was the state caucuses of the Iowa Democratic Party. It was the first election for the Democrats of the 2008 presidential election. Also referred to as "the First in the Nation Caucus," it was the first election of the primary season on both the Democratic and Republican sides. Of the eight major Democratic presidential candidates, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois received the most votes and was ultimately declared the winner of the Iowa Democratic Caucus of 2008, making him the first African American to win the caucus. Former U.S. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina came in second place and then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York finished third, though Clinton received more delegates than Edwards. Campaigning had begun as early as two years before the event.2008 Iowa Republican caucuses
The 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses took place on January 4, 2008. The Iowa Republican caucuses are an unofficial primary, with the delegates to the state convention selected proportionally via a straw poll. The Iowa caucuses mark the traditional formal start of the delegate selection process for the 2008 United States presidential election.
Prior to the 2008 caucuses, as in previous election cycles with a competitive presidential race, an unofficial Ames Straw Poll was held, on August 11, 2007. The official one, electing delegates to the state convention, was held on January 3, 2008, the same day as the Democratic contest. In the Ames Straw Poll, Mitt Romney finished first with 32% of the vote. In the January 2008 caucuses, Mike Huckabee finished first with 34% of the vote.2008 United States presidential election in Iowa
The 2008 United States presidential election in Iowa took place on November 4, 2008, in Iowa, as part of the 2008 United States presidential election. Voters chose 7 representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for president and vice president.
Iowa was won by the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, by a 9.54% margin of victory. Obama took 53.93% of the vote while his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, took 44.39%. Prior to the election, all 17 news organizations considered this a state Obama would win, or otherwise considered as a safe blue state. In 2004, Republican George W. Bush had very narrowly won Iowa in his re-election bid, although prior to that the state had gone Democratic for four elections straight. A Midwestern state where agriculture plays a critical role in the daily lives of its citizens, Iowa is nevertheless an independent state. However, due to Obama's victory in the Iowa caucuses, Bush's unpopularity, and the troubling economy, the state easily fell into Obama's column later in the election season.2016 Iowa Republican caucuses
The 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses took place on February 1 in the U.S. state of Iowa, traditionally marking the Republican Party's first nominating contest in their series of presidential primaries ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The Democratic Party held its own Iowa caucuses on the same day.
Ted Cruz was able to defeat Donald Trump in the Iowa Caucus by winning over evangelical and libertarian caucus-goers; Cruz won 51,666 caucus votes or 27.6%, giving him a net gain of one delegate over Trump. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner, dropped out following a poor performance in the caucus.
While Cruz had the endorsement of Congressman Steve King of the 4th Congressional District in rural northwest Iowa, and was able to consolidate devout Evangelical support in the Sioux City area, he was snuffed by Terry Branstad, the popular Republican Governor at the time. Trump tried to make a run among the majority-Catholic mill towns of Mississippi River valley, but Cruz's far-right religious support was stronger than most polls anticipated.2016 United States presidential election in Iowa
The 2016 United States presidential election in Iowa was held on November 8, 2016, as part of the 2016 General Election in which all 50 states plus The District of Columbia participated. Iowa voters chose electors to represent them in the Electoral College via a popular vote pitting the Republican Party's nominee, businessman Donald Trump, and running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence against Democratic Party nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
Both parties' caucuses were held on February 1, 2016.Donald Trump won the election in Iowa with 51.1% of the vote. Hillary Clinton received 41.7% of the vote. Trump carried Iowa by the largest margin of any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980. Trump enjoyed the support of working-class whites in the agricultural industry, as well as the endorsements of Iowa's GOP establishment. The difference of 9.4% points was the largest winning margin for Trump in a state that had voted for Barack Obama in 2012. He carried 93 out of 99 counties, the most for a Republican presidential nominee since 1980. This was the first time since 1988 in which Iowa did not go for the winner of the popular vote.
Iowa was also one of the eleven states to vote for Bill Clinton twice in 1992 and 1996 which Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses
The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses will take place on Monday, February 3, 2020, as the first nominating contest in the Democratic Party presidential primaries for the 2020 presidential election. The Iowa caucuses are a closed caucus, with the state awarding 49 delegates, of which 41 are pledged delegates allocated on the basis of the results of the caucuses.Bill Richardson 2008 presidential campaign
The 2008 presidential campaign of Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced his candidacy on January 21, 2007, for President of the United States on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, by virtue of forming a presidential exploratory committee.
Richardson, who is of Hispanic descent, joined a diverse field for the Democratic nomination, which already included an African American in Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and a female in Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and became the first individual of Hispanic descent to mount a nationwide campaign for president. He withdrew from the race on January 10, 2008 after only placing fourth in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, the first two of the season.Dick Gephardt 2004 presidential campaign
The 2004 presidential campaign of Dick Gephardt, former House Minority Leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri, began on January 5, 2003 with the filing of papers with the Federal Election Commission that established an exploratory committee. He formally announced his entry into the race for the Democratic nomination on February 19, 2003 in St. Louis, Missouri. The day after the Iowa caucuses, Gephardt dropped out of the race on January 20, 2004.Hamburg Inn No. 2
The Hamburg Inn No. 2 is a small family diner located near downtown in Iowa City, Iowa, in the United States. The Hamburg Inn is a regular stop for presidential candidates during the Iowa Caucuses. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have visited, and the restaurant was featured on the TV show, The West Wing.Interregional Primary Plan
The Interregional Primary Plan is a proposed reform to the United States primary calendar supported by Representative Sandy Levin and Senator Bill Nelson, both Democrats. The plan would break the country into six regions. From those regions, one subregion - either a single state or a group of smaller states - would vote on each primary date (e.g., all A states,) with the entire country having held its primaries after the sixth set of primaries votes. Each state would vote first once every twenty-four years, with the first set of primaries determined by lottery and cycled thereafter.Historically, the presidential primary season started slowly, ramping up several weeks after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. In the 2008 Presidential primary season, with competition to increase the relevance of each state's selection process, 34 states (plus the District of Columbia), have scheduled their primary or caucus process to be held in January and February, tripling the number of states voting this early than the count in the 2000 races.Iowa Democratic Party
The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) is the affiliate of the United States Democratic Party in the state of Iowa.
While existing when Iowa was granted statehood in 1846 it has only had electoral success from the mid-1950s to the present day. Iowa Democrats are in power at both the federal and state level. The party's platform was last updated in 2016. The Iowa Democratic Party organizes the Democratic Iowa Caucuses in presidential elections.Iowa Straw Poll
The Iowa Straw Poll (also known as the Ames Straw Poll) was a presidential straw poll and fundraising event for the Republican Party of Iowa. It was held six times, traditionally in late summer approximately six months in advance of contested presidential Iowa caucuses, from 1979 until 2011, on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames.
The event attracted both praise and criticism, with supporters noting that it raised funds for the Republican Party of Iowa and winnowed large fields of presidential candidates. Critics asserted that it catered to extremist candidates and put a financial squeeze on campaigns. The poll itself held a mixed record as a bellwether for either the Iowa caucuses or the GOP nomination; three times (George H. W. Bush in '79, Bob Dole in '95, and George W. Bush in '99) would the winner of the straw poll also win the Iowa caucuses the next year, but only twice ('95 and '99) did these candidates go on to win the GOP nomination. Only one winner of the straw poll, George W. Bush, would go on to win the presidency.
On June 12, 2015, the Republican Party of Iowa announced that the straw poll will no longer be held.John Edwards 2008 presidential campaign
The 2008 presidential campaign of John Edwards, former United States Senator from North Carolina and Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004 began on December 28, 2006 when he announced his entry into the 2008 presidential election in the city of New Orleans near sites devastated by Hurricane Katrina. On January 30, 2008, Edwards returned to New Orleans to announce that he was suspending his campaign for the Presidency. On May 14, 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan.Martin O'Malley 2016 presidential campaign
The 2016 presidential campaign of Martin O'Malley, the 61st Governor of Maryland, for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2016 was announced on May 30, 2015. On February 1, 2016, he suspended his campaign after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses.O'Malley originally was the strongest competitor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the rest of the candidates only polled at 2% or lower. After the entrance and rise of Bernie Sanders in mid 2015 O'Malley and Jim Webb would switch places for third place in the polling until Webb dropped out. O'Malley dropped out of the race after receiving only 0.54 in the Iowa caucuses.
O'Malley would have been the fourth Catholic after Al Smith, John F. Kennedy and John Kerry to be nominated by a major party ticket and the third to have not been born in any of the fifty states after Al Gore and John McCain.Mike Huckabee 2016 presidential campaign
The 2016 presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, the 44th Governor of Arkansas, began on May 5, 2015 at an event in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas. Huckabee's candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential election is his second, after having previously run in 2008. Following a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee ended his run on February 1, 2016.Republican Party of Iowa
The Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) is the affiliate of the United States Republican Party in Iowa. The State Central Committee is led by Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. The RPI operates the Republican side of the Iowa caucuses and previously sponsored the Iowa Straw Poll.
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