Home Politics 2024 Iowa Republican Presidential Caucuses: What Are They & How They Can Impact the Elections?

2024 Iowa Republican Presidential Caucuses: What Are They & How They Can Impact the Elections?

by Scott Kacsmar
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The 2024 Iowa Republican presidential caucuses are being held on January 15, 2024. This is essentially the first big event in the election cycle that will lead up to the United States presidential election in November.

There is an Iowa caucus for the Democratic nominee as well, but that is less important with incumbent president Joe Biden expected to win his party’s nomination. All the attention is on Monday’s contested Republican bid between front-runner Donald Trump and candidates including Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

What is the Iowa caucus, how does it differ from a regular primary, and what might we learn from the results for the 2024 election? We have it all covered below so you can take advantage when at the best political betting sites.

What Is the Iowa Caucuses?

At least we have found something where the state of Iowa just has to be different from most of the United States. Going back to the 1800s, Iowa has been using a caucus system to elect its party leaders and candidates for elections.

What is a caucus system? In most other states, registered voters simply go to a polling place on election day and cast a secret ballot for their preferred candidate. But in Iowa, they use caucuses, which historically have been more of a social experiment and groupthink approach.

People in the state attend evening meetings and can openly express their support for a candidate or listen to others voice why that candidate is the right choice. People with similar views gather to rally their support behind that candidate, and the groups start to debate and try to convince others to support their candidate too. If a candidate lacks support, they are removed from the process.

Eventually, a vote is cast, the ballots are counted, and the percentage of votes each candidate gets will determine how Iowa’s 40 delegates are split up in the summer at the Republican National Convention (RNC).

Basically, it’s like going on social media to argue over who should be president, hoping you can build the biggest herd of supporters, and declaring your person the winner if you change enough minds and have the highest percentage of supporters. Except this is done in person at various meetings across the state.

It is very much an Iowa event too. The state held a traditional presidential primary in 1916, but due to a high cost and poor turnout, they went right back to the caucus system in 1917.

In 1968, the Democrats saw a need to do better scheduling for individual states in their nomination process. This led to the first Iowa caucus in 1972 on the Democratic side, then the Republicans followed suit with the first Republican Iowa caucus in 1976.

iowa democratic party caucuse 1976 jimmy carter

Since the Iowa caucus has typically been scheduled for the beginning of primary season, it has become the first major event in the election process.

Are There Any Changes to the Iowa Caucus in 2024?

We mentioned that historically there would be groups formed in the caucus rooms to try persuading others to join for support of that candidate, but reportedly that is no longer the way things will work in 2024.

At the Republican Iowa caucus this year, attendees who want to speak to the group about why they support their chosen candidate will be given a chance to do so. Once the speeches are complete, a secret ballot is held, the votes are tabulated, and it is determined how many votes the leading candidates received.

The only people eligible to attend the meetings and vote are registered Republicans who will be at least 18 years old this November. But unregistered voters or voters with a different political party (Democratic) are allowed to attend the Republican caucus granted they change their party affiliation to Republican or register as a state voter of legal age.

The other big rule is that voters must be there in person to vote, and they can only attend the meeting held in their home precinct.

What Does the Data Say for the Iowa Caucus?

According to FiveThirtyEight, former president Donald Trump is still the likely winner in Iowa. Here is where the polling averages stand as of January 10, 2024:

  • Donald Trump – 51.8%
  • Ron DeSantis – 17.2%
  • Nikki Haley – 16.8%
  • Vivek Ramaswamy – 6.2%
  • Chris Christie – 3.4%
  • Asa Hutchinson – 0.7%

Haley and DeSantis participated in a debate Wednesday evening, but both are still well behind the former president. Also on Wednesday, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie suspended his campaign, so things are tightening up into a smaller field as the Iowa caucus approaches.

How Can the Iowa Caucus Impact the 2024 Election?

To be frank, the Iowa caucus is not the greatest predictor of party nominations, especially on the Republican side. Since 1976, only 3-of-8 winners of the Iowa caucuses went on to win the Republican nomination for president that year. It has been accurate on the Democratic side 70% of the time.

In 2008, Mike Huckabee won Iowa while the actual winner of the Republican nomination, John McCain, finished in 4th place. Even in 2016, Ted Cruz beat out Donald Trump in Iowa, and we know what happened there.

We have to remember that Iowa is a small state, and many voters at these Iowa caucuses identify as evangelical Christians, which does not translate as well to the voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and other battleground states.

What Iowa is important for is being a launching pad for a lesser-known candidate, or a sign of doom for a struggling candidate. Someone like Chris Christie already dropped out before Iowa’s event but should someone like entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy perform terribly at the Iowa caucuses, the end of his campaign could be sooner than later.

But Iowa will be the first taste of seeing where people have their support in this Republican race. Will it be Trump in a landslide and a sign of things to come in the other state primaries, or has Nikki Haley started to have an impact as a different voice in the Republican party? Does DeSantis have any momentum going for him?

We’ll start to get those answers with the Iowa caucuses, but they are merely one data point.

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Scott Kacsmar
NFL football picks are Scott Kacsmar's expertise, serving as his main focus. He has contributed to various sports websites and blogs, such as NBC Sports, ESPN Insider, FiveThirtyEight, and, JoeWager. Originating from Pittsburgh, Scott maintains a love-hate connection with the Pirates.

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