THE STUDY JANUARY 2, 2012
Today is the last full day of campaigning for candidates tromping through Iowa in a quest for the support of the state’s Republican caucus-goers. Mitt Romney is playing up his electability, Rick Santorum is emphasizing his social conservatism, and Ron Paul is warning about a UN takeover of Americans’ land. In other words, it’s a circus out there. But will it finally end this uncertainty and give us a GOP nominee?
Probably not, says a 2008 paper. The author, a political scientist, examined the theory that Iowans played “kingmaker” in the major parties’ nominating processes. His conclusion: While “the decisions made in the caucuses were very important in deciding both parties’ nominations [...] Iowa alone never selected the nominee in either party.” And while a victory in Iowa gives the winner “a big leg up,” “the second- or third-place finishers also reaped benefits if they managed to exceed media expectations.” That means that rather than picking a nominee, Iowa’s most important role is actually to “winnow the field.” Candidates who finish lower than third have always been “effectively forced to drop their nomination bids,” and none have ever won the nomination of either party, “leading to the adage that there were only three tickets out of Iowa.” We’ll find out tomorrow who moves into the top three—and a step closer to the nomination.