State Analysis

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The first real numbers we will see for the 2016 Presidential Nomination are in Iowa on February 1, 2016. Most people know that Iowa uses a caucus system, but probably few know how many votes are expected to be cast in the Republican Caucus. In 2008, there 118,696 votes cast in the Iowa caucuses. In 2012, it was 121,590. For comparison, in an Iowa gubernatorial election, expect 1.1 million votes to be cast. In a presidential general election, there are roughly 1.5 million votes to be cast. A small number of people will be voting in the Iowa Caucuses. Turnout is about 5-6% of the voting population. This has a major impact on the race and helps candidates who can turnout motivated voters on a cold winter night in early February.

Sometimes, the Iowa caucus winner becomes the nominee, and sometimes, he/she doesn’t. In 1996, Bob Dole narrowly won the Iowa Caucuses with 26% over Pat Buchanan and Lamar Alexander in a nine candidate race. There were 5 participants that year. In 2000, George W Bush won Iowa with a plurality of 40% by 10% over Steve Forbes in a six candidate race. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won with a plurality of 34% (by 9%) over Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and the eventual nominee John McCain who did not really contest Iowa. That was an 8 candidate race. In 2012, Rick Santorum won narrowly over Mitt Romney (both 24%) and Ron Paul (21%) in an 11 candidate race.  The worst a candidate has done here since 1996 while still going on to win the nomination was John McCain in 2008, who received 13.11% without competing in the state.  While pundits are quick to say that you don’t have to win Iowa to be the nominee, it’s best to finish in the top three or four to get a ticket to New Hampshire and South Carolina.

There are distinct patterns in Iowa. Western and parts of Central Iowa tend to be highly evangelical and more rural and Republican during general elections.  Northwest Iowa has a very large Dutch population.  Eastern Iowa is more urban as well as the Des Moines area. Those areas tend to be more Democratic. They also often – not always – tend to vote differently in primaries. In 2012, Eastern Iowa voted for Romney or Ron Paul. Western Iowa voted mostly for Santorum.  In 2008, Western Iowa split its vote – Eastern Iowa voted for Romney – central Iowa supported Huckabee.  In 2000, Bush won most of the state, but the most conservative NW portion of Iowa voted for Steve Forbes or Gary Bauer.

In previous elections, there tended to be an “establishment” candidate with traction, a “religious conservative” candidate with traction, and one or two outsiders. Sometimes candidates overlap.  In 2000, Gary Bauer was the religious conservative candidate, while Forbes was viewed more as an economic reformer. Both were “outsiders.”  In 2008, Mike Huckabee was the “religious conservative” candidate with traction, but had some establishment support. Romney was the main “party establishment” candidate.

In 2012, Rick Santorum was the “religious conservative” candidate with traction. Santorum outmaneuvered Michele Bachmann and others to become the “religious conservative” candidate here in 2012. Romney was the “establishment” candidate with traction. Ron Paul was the “outsider” candidate who specialized in caucus organization. Gingrich and Perry also got their share of votes but finished in the back of the pack. They worked to try to be the alternative “not Romney” candidate to appeal to conservatives but were not successful.  In the end, no candidate received 25% of the vote, but Santorum, Romney, and Paul, combined for 70.46% of the vote. Of the rest, most went to Gingrich (13.29%) or Perry (10.33%).

County Results 2012 – Map Color Code: (Dave’s Redistricting Map used for coloring)

Santorum won by 25%+ – Dark Blue, Santorum 10-24% – Blue

Santorum 5-9% – Slate Blue, Santorum 0-5% – Sky Blue

Romney won by 10-24% – Red, Romney 5-9% – Tomato Red, Romney 0-4% – Pale Red

Paul won by 25% – Dark Green, Paul 10-24% – Green, Paul 5-9% – Lime Green, Paul 0-5% – Light Green

Counties won by Rick Perry in Black. County in Yellow was tied (Paul/Santorum)

Iowa early state analysis map

It will be interesting if the same patterns emerge in Iowa in 2016. Those light blue counties, light green counties, and pale violet red counties were close and could flip to a different type of candidate based on turnouts alone. There will likely be one main Evangelical Candidate and one main “Establishment” candidate. There will also be at least one outsider candidate that gains traction.

Organization is probably the biggest key in which candidate emerges as the favorite of their respective wing of the party. Crossover appeal among different wings of Iowa Republicans will be key as to which candidate wins in the end.  Less than 150,000 voters will be making decisions at a caucus, so do not expect a high turnout or a 1996 New Hampshire style of populist revolt from disaffected voters. That is more apt to happen in a primary than in a caucus. Longtime party Republicans will be making decisions there, and look for the most organized ground campaigns to do best.

Caucuses tend to be more “momentum-proof” than primaries, so at this stage it is better to look at organizational strength on the ground in Iowa rather than which way the wind is blowing in current polling.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

New Hampshire is usually the 2nd contest of the primary/caucus elections to determine the nominee.  In 2016, it will be February 9th, eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire runs a primary.  It’s not a closed primary, as both registered Republican and “unaffiliated” voters may vote in the primary.

New Hampshire is a state with many political currents. It’s influenced by Vermont as the west side of the state (along with Concord and Dover) is the most liberal part of the state. The Southern portion of New Hampshire is Massachusetts-influenced. Many of the New England independents are still active in the state. The Republican base is in the Central Eastern portion of the state outside of Strafford County. The Massachusetts border counties contrary to popular belief are actually swing areas which can vote for either party. Scott Brown nearly won in an upset in his senate race in large part due to the votes of former Massachusetts resident.

There has been a lot of 2015 hype regarding Donald Trump. If Donald Trump has a serious candidacy, we will know in the New Hampshire primary. New Hampshire has a long populist history of bucking the establishment in Republican Primaries. In 1996, Pat Buchanan with 27% defeated Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander.  In 2000, John McCain with 48% defeated George W Bush in every county and won by 18%. McCain still had his popularity there in the 2008 primaries with 37%, as he beat neighboring state Mitt Romney by 5-6% winning all except two counties bordering Massachusetts. Will the same group that voted for Buchanan nearly 20 years ago, and McCain, 15 and 7 years ago show up and vote for Trump?

In 1996, there were three candidates that had 20% or more of the vote: Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole, and Lamar Alexander. We used 1996 here as a comparison with the map. At this point we expect it to be the most “recent” comparison to 2016 for New Hampshire. There is an outsider candidate with momentum. Then it was Pat Buchanan. This year, as of now, it is Donald Trump. There is an “establishment” candidate who is the “next in line” to be the nomination. Then it was Bob Dole. This year there isn’t a true “next in line,” but many want it to be Bush. There are other “establishment” candidates who think they can win (Kasich now/Lamar Alexander then). Then there are the other establishment/outsider candidates that just are not gaining any traction. Then it was Forbes, Lugar, Gramm and Keyes. It’s too early to tell this year who aren’t gaining traction when it counts.

Alexander by 0-500 votes – Green

Buchanan by 1000+ votes – Dark Red, Buchanan by 0-500 votes – Tomato Red

Dole by 0-500 votes – Royal Blue, Dole by 500-1000 – Blue

New Hampshire early state analysis map

1996 is still a 20 year old electorate so it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. New Hampshire has more Vermont (West) and Massachusetts influences than it did in 1996. In 2014, Scott Brown moved to New Hampshire and nearly beat an incumbent despite winning only three counties, two of which border Massachusetts. 2012 had three candidates with 15% or more of the vote. Romney won easily with 39% followed by Paul (22%) and Huntsman with 17%. Romney won all counties except Coos County which went for Ron Paul. Romney received 40% in the Massachusetts border region along with Carroll County in the central eastern region.  Coos County is very anti-establishment, so keep an eye on its results. Hillsborough County is quite independent and also the largest county in the state. Buchanan won it in 1996 and it made the difference in his win. The Manchester Union Leader in its day had a lot of influence with its editorials.

While winning New Hampshire is important, the most important thing it does is narrow the field. A lot of candidates drop out after New Hampshire if they contested the state and did not finish well. That will be a major key with the large number of candidates running in 2016. New Hampshire is the Waterloo for most candidates. A caucus electorate is one thing, but a primary electorate is a different animal.  If Donald Trump is still running by this point, then New Hampshire could be his Waterloo.