The Iowa caucuses have been the first major electoral event in the race for the presidency since 1972, however they are a generally unreliable predictor of who will ultimately win the Republican Party's nomination, much less the general election.
"The winner of the GOP Iowa caucuses usually does not win the second nominating contest, the New Hampshire primaries, and more often than not loses the overall nomination as well," CBS News wrote
during the last presidential election cycle.
The Christian Science Monitor added
that "Iowa might be less about deciding the winner, and more about confirming the losers," and notes that no party nominee has ever finished below the top four in Iowa.
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In fact, since 1972, the only Republican candidate to have won both the Iowa caucuses and the presidency is George W. Bush in the 2000 race.
Gathered below are the six men who won Iowa, but ultimately lost their bid for the presidency. Candidates who appear underlined went on to win the Republican nomination.
1. Rick Santorum (2012)
— The former senator from Pennsylvania defeated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, however it was the latter that went on to secure the nomination. Romney eventually lost the general election to sitting President Barack Obama, The Des Moines Register reported
Rick Santorum 24%
2. Mike Huckabee (2008)
Mitt Romney 24%
Ron Paul 21%
Newt Gingrich 13%
— Mike Huckabee handily defeated Romney, Fred Thompson, and John McCain in the Iowa caucus, but it was McCain who went on to secure the nomination. McCain eventually lost to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Mike Huckabee 34%
3. Bob Dole (1996)
Mitt Romney 25%
Fred Thompson 13%
John McCain 13%
— The senator from Kansas defeated Pat Buchanan to win both the Iowa caucus and the Republican nomination, but lost the general election to sitting President Bill Clinton.
Bob Dole 26%
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4. Bob Dole (1988)
Pat Buchanan 23%
Lamar Alexander 17%
Steve Forbes 10%
— Both Bob Dole and Pat Robertson defeated Vice President George H. W. Bush in the Iowa primary, but it was the latter who would eventually secure the party's nomination, and go on to win the presidency.
Bob Dole 37%
5. George H. W. Bush (1980)
Pat Robertson 24%
George Bush 18%
Jack Kemp 11%
— Bush, the former congressman, ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence defeated Ronald Reagan in the Iowa caucus, but it was of course the former Gov. of California that won the GOP nomination and presidency.
George Bush 31%
6. Gerald Ford (1976)
Ronald Reagan 29%
Howard Baker 15%
John Connally 9%
— The only president in modern history who was appointed rather than elected won the Iowa caucus as well as his party's nomination. He famously lost to Jimmy Carter in the general election, however.
(Sample precincts straw poll)
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Gerald Ford 264
Ronald Reagan 248
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