The Iowa Caucuses (And Iowa’s Relevance) Are Dead

The Iowa caucuses are finit. Dead. Never to rise again. And with them, probably Iowa too.

The first hammer blow was last summer, when the Iowa Straw Poll was cancelled because it conflicted with the RedState Gathering. Actually Erick went to great lengths to deconflict the events, but Iowa snubbed him and scheduled theirs for the same weekend. Then they ended up cancelling because the candidates all wanted to be in Georgia.

And now, nobody is happy after the last Iowa caucus—well, nobody except Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Donald Trump went–as expected–completely orbital in calling for invalidating the entire affair, accusing Cruz of fraud.

I’m sure this will keep the media in frenzy for at least one or two news cycles. And Bernie Sanders refused to concede the caucus to Hillary, because the Democrats purposely hid their vote counts to hand the race to her. Yes, the Iowa caucus 2016, despite having the highest turnout in history, was an unmitigated catastrophe.

Earlier in the day, Sanders called on the Iowa Democratic Party to release the raw vote total of caucus-goers who supported each candidate. The party only reports how many delegates each candidates won, which is determined by a complex mathematical formula, not raw support. It’s theoretically possible for a candidate to have more supporters but lose on delegates, which are what helps determine who gets the nomination.

The Democratic Party quickly batted down the idea of releasing the raw vote. “The Iowa Democratic Caucuses are not a primary – candidates are awarded delegates, not raw votes. In fact, because of our realignment process, raw vote totals are not recorded. As we have always done, and as we have always told the campaigns we would do, we have released state delegate equivalents earned by each candidate,” Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson Sam Lau said in a statement to MSNBC.

So besides the award of a few delegates, the repudiation of bowing to King Corn, and the spectacle of Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee bowing before Zod, Iowa has self-vaporized like matter meeting antimatter in an instantaneous and permanent release of energy.

Even worse, the famous Selzer/Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll was disastrously wrong, as it tends to be, leaving the pundits to always explain exactly how and why it was so wrong. It’s like watching the same accident tape over and over again and having to explain why the driver was texting while driving the wrong way on the Interstate and how that’s a bad idea.

On caucus night, the unprecedented turnout (about half again as many as showed up in 2012) included a show-rate for evangelicals of 64% in the CNN entrance poll, which was beyond anything in recent memory and what anyone might have speculated, I would guess. Obviously, had we tested that scenario, we would have seen a Cruz victory. We knew Cruz had invested in an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort, with door-knockers and phone-bankers making tens of thousands of late-race contacts. This is probably the biggest reason Cruz prevailed.


Beyond the Iowa Straw Poll and the Iowa caucuses, a state with a fairly homogenous voter base, a one-issue industry (corn) towering above the rest, and a penchant for twisty endings, probably doesn’t need to be the bellwether of election predictions and momentum in America. Of course, if you live in Iowa, you probably disagree.

But the networks and parties will probably keep the dead caucuses around for an infinity of elections because they love surprises, and as Selzer notes, “The caucuses are, after all, designed for surprising twists.”

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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