Parties and Platforms

Campaigns and Nominations

Why are the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary important?

Iowa and New Hampshire are important because they hold the nation’s first caucus and primary, respectively, of the campaign season. The voting in these states has become critical to presidential candidates because candidates who do well in these states garner early media attention and are instantly dubbed their parties’ front-runners. Although victories in these states often set the tone for the presidential race, success isn’t automatic, as evidenced by two late twentieth-century examples: In 1980, George Bush beat Ronald Reagan in the Republican Iowa caucuses, but Reagan won the party’s nomination for president; in 1996, journalist Patrick Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary in a victory over former U.S. senator Bob Dole of Kansas, but Dole received the Republican nomination. In an effort to gain more control over the nomination process, a number of states have moved their primaries ahead on the campaign calendar.


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