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.
Unlike the Democratic caucus, the Republican Party does not use voting rounds or have minimum requirements for a percent of votes. The Republican version is done with a straw vote of those attending the caucus. This vote is sometimes done by a show of hands or by dividing themselves into groups according to candidate. However, officially it is done with voters receiving a blank piece of paper with no names on it, and the voter writing a name and placing it in a ballot box.
Following the straw poll, delegates are then elected from the remaining participants in the room, as most voters leave once their vote is cast. All delegates are officially considered unbound, but media outlets either apportion delegates proportionally or apportion them in terms of winner-take-all by counties. In precincts that elect only one delegate, the delegate is chosen by majority vote and the vote must be by paper ballot. The state party strongly urges that delegates reflect the results of the preference poll, but there is no obligation that they do so.
The 2007 Ames straw poll was held at Iowa State University (Ames)'s Hilton Coliseum on August 11, 2007. This was primarily a fundraising event for the state's Republican Party, and only Iowa residents who paid the $35 price for a ticket were eligible to vote. Tickets were available through the various presidential campaigns and the Iowa Republican Party's headquarters.
In general, the candidates bought large blocks of tickets and gave them out for free to whoever agreed to go and vote for that candidate. The candidates also rented buses to transport voters to Ames.
Mitt Romney finished first with 32% of the vote, followed by Mike Huckabee (18%), Sam Brownback (15%), Tom Tancredo (14%), and Ron Paul (10%). Six other candidates shared the remaining 14% of the vote.
Before the caucuses, the Des Moines Register reported the following results from a poll of 800 likely Republican caucus goers from December 27 to December 30, 2007:
The above results have a margin of sampling error of ±3.5 percentage points.
Mike Huckabee's results in the opinion polls rose from 29% in the Des Moines Register's poll in late November 2007. Mitt Romney rose two points from 24% in November to 26% in December. John McCain enjoyed the biggest increase from November, increasing six points from 7% to 13%, while Rudy Giuliani suffered the biggest drop from November, decreasing eight points from 13% to 5%. Giuliani's large drop was attributed to his strategy of skipping early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire in favor of larger, delegate-rich states such as Florida, California, and New York. No other candidate polled more than 10%.
Huckabee's poll numbers in Iowa rose dramatically from October to December, in part due to his backing among evangelical voters, who accounted for almost one-half of those polled. Huckabee led Romney in that group 47%-20%. Huckabee also polled higher than Romney among the group who said it was more important to be a social conservative than a fiscal conservative, while Romney led Huckabee 29%-25% among the group who said that being fiscally conservative was most important. In addition, Romney also polled highest in the categories of experience and competence, the ability to bring about change, and electability.
As of 11:05 p.m. EDT, January 4, 2008, with 100% of the votes reported, the results were:
*Candidate had already dropped out of the race prior to caucus.
Only three candidates won majorities in the individual counties: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul. The Giuliani campaign followed an unusual strategy of focusing on larger states that vote later in the process, and had done little if any campaigning in Iowa. Tancredo had already withdrawn from the presidential race two weeks earlier and endorsed Romney, but his name remained in the official list of candidates of the Iowa Republican Party.