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A rule of thumb has developed since 1976, the year that Iowa and New Hampshire in tandem became the powerful early touchstones of the presidential nominating process. And the rule is that a candidate must win either one or the other to ultimately capture their party’s nomination. Just one candidate was nominated over the last 40 years without winning either early contest. That candidate was Democrat Bill Clinton and his showing in 1992 is worthy of an asterisk. He skipped the Iowa caucuses that year in deference to the home-state candidacy of Sen. Tom Harkin, and finished second to former Sen. Paul Tsongas of neighboring Massachusetts in the New Hampshire primary. However, it could have been a lot worse for Clinton in the Granite State. He had to weather charges of marital infidelity and draft evasion that threatened to wreck his presidential ambitions. In this light, his second place finish in New Hampshire was portrayed as a major triumph by Clinton, who proclaimed himself the “comeback kid.”

It has been fully four decades since the nation’s presidential nominating process shifted from the old system, where nominations were determined at conventions, to the current one, where they are decided in the primaries. Yet since the 1970s, when this basic change took place, the nature of the nominating process has still continued to evolve. The number of primaries has grown from a bare majority of states in the mid-1970s to 40 or so now. The system of public financing created in the wake of the Watergate scandal to limit the role of money in campaigns, has given way to an era of “anything goes.” And the long, opening stage of the nominating process dubbed the “invisible primary,” is now anything but invisible. Candidates once used this critical period between the midterm election and the start of the primary balloting to quietly raise money, woo endorsements, build grass-roots organizations in the early primary and caucus states, and test their campaign messages. Now they must do so trailed by reporters and camera crews recording their every utterance. This long introductory period, which the 2016 campaign is now in, is no longer akin to “spring training.” Once it is obvious that a presidential prospect is actually going to be a full-blown candidate, everything that they do counts in determining their ultimate success or failure. Candidates these days are judged on multiple fronts: most notably, their standing in the polls (especially in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire); their ability to raise money (and find a wealthy patron or two to fund a separate super PAC); and their performance in intra-party presidential debates. Failure in any one of these areas and a candidate can find himself in, and then out, of the race before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses has even been held.

Source: The Rhodes–Cook Letter, May 2015

Document Outline
Iowa and New Hampshire Winners

Iowa and New Hampshire Winners

Document Outline
Iowa and New Hampshire Winners

 
Document Citation
Cook, R. (2015). Iowa and new hampshire: winning at least one critical to capturing a presidential nomination. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: rcookltr-1527-97805-2707767
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/elections/rcookltr-1527-97805-2707767