The Myth of Iowa’s Demise

From Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker, on Hillary Clinton’s 22-point lead in his latest poll in Nevada:

“People forget that Bill Clinton lost New Hampshire, lost Iowa, and still won the nomination (in 1992) because he had set up a lot of backup states, and he bounced back,” Coker said. “The Clintons realize you can lose Iowa and New Hampshire and still win the nomination.”

Can we please, please, please stop citing the 1992 Iowa Caucuses as if that meant anything? If you need a refresher, Tom Harkin ran for the Democratic nomination that year. As soon as he entered, his fellow candidates ceded Iowa to him. No one campaign there. No one spent money there. Almost no one showed up on caucus night, when Harkin took 79 percent of the vote (second place went to “uncommitted”). And Harkin got absolutely no bounce from his “win,” since no one noticed it. He finished a distant fourth in New Hampshire the next week and was soon out of the race. For all practical purposes, Iowa didn’t happen in 1992.

Coker’s claim that a candidate can drop Iowa and New Hampshire and still win the nomination remains untested. With Nevada moving up, it seems possible it could happen in 2008 – but outside of the absurd ’92 example, it has yet to happen in either party.