February 3rd, 2020


Primaries and Caucuses: The 2012 Republican Iowa Caucuses

In a previous article in this series, it was reported that for the Republican Party, the Iowa Caucuses have been a less reliable predictor of who will eventually win their nomination contest. The success rate is 43%. In 2020, the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses took place on January 3, 2012.They would have an interesting result in that they would result in what was essentially a three-way tie, one that gave the three the opportunity to spin the race in their favor. When the counting was complete, it turned out to be the closest race in Iowa caucus history with only a thirty-four vote margin (or .03%) separating the first two finishers. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania received 29,839 votes (24.56%), and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney received 29,805 votes (24.53%). Representative Ron Paul of Texas ran a close third, receiving 26,036 votes (21.43%). These three were followed by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (16,163 votes, 13.30%), Texas governor Rick Perry (12,557 votes, 10.33%), and Representative Michele Bachmann (6,046 votes, 4.98%). Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr., had skipped campaigning in Iowa to focus on the New Hampshire primary, but he still received 739 votes (0.61%). A total of 121,501 votes were recorded, setting what was then a record for Iowa Republican caucus turnout (since surpassed in the 2016 election by more than 60,000 votes). However votes from eight precincts were never counted, so the actual vote totals will never be really known.

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The Iowa 2012 Republican caucuses were regarded as the start of the Republican delegate selection process for the 2012 United States presidential election, but the real caucus process was the election of Republican delegates to the county conventions, who would eventually determine the delegates at the state convention in June 2012. It was the latter that determined the Iowa delegates who would attend the Republican National Convention in August, 2012. As a result, it was actually Ron Paul was ultimately able to win 22 of the 28 delegates to the national convention, while Mitt Romney won the other six.

The 2011–2012 pre-caucus poll results for Iowa showed the leading candidate in Iowa change seven times from May 2011 until the caucuses. The 2012 caucuses also set a new record for political expenditures, with $12 million being spent. As a result of the landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, two-thirds of that spending came from "super PACs" which ran highly negative attack ads.

Early on in the campaign, in an August 13 Ames Straw Poll, a traditional straw poll held in Iowa Republican caucuses, Michelle Bachmann narrowly defeated Ron Paul, with Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty trailing in third. Pawlenty considered this result to be disappointing and he soon dropped out of the race.

Former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, who was the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses in 2008, had been the leader in every statewide poll conducted in the state in 2010, and early 2011. But he decided against a second bid, however, announcing the decision on his Fox News show Huckabee on May 14, 2011, stating "all the factors say go, but my heart says no, and that's the decision I've made." Following his announcement, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney became the frontrunner in polls conducted within the state in the weeks following, despite his refusing to participate in the state's Ames Straw Poll. But a couple of months later support for Bachmann began to increase, due in large part to the support she received from the Tea Party movement. She had been a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. Bachmann was born in Waterloo, Iowa, where she also officially kicked off her candidacy.

Several other potential candidates who visited Iowa, included former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, former Governor of New York George Pataki, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie. All decided against bids for president. Then a businessman, Donald Trump also briefly considered the possibility of a bid for president, but ultimately decided against it.
As the Ames Straw Poll approached in August 2011, on August 11, two days before the poll, the third official Republican debate was held at Iowa State University in Ames, sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa, Fox News, and The Washington Examiner. Candidates participating in the debate included Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum.

Following the straw poll, support of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann continued to grow. The media was criticized for its lack of consideration of Congressman Ron Paul as a top tier candidate. Comedian Jon Stewart on his program The Daily Show, pointed out Paul's near tie with Bachmann in the poll, and subsequent lack of coverage of the candidate by the media. Bachmann's support in polls following Ames began to fall, with Rick Perry's support growing in the state following his entrance to the race. On August 14, 2011, Pawlenty announced his intentions to withdraw from the race, as a result of placing a distant third in the Ames Straw Poll. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter also dropped out of the race a month after the straw poll, calling his presidential bid the "worst 15 minutes of my life."

Going into September, Rick Perry's poor performance in debates led to a significant drop in his support in statewide polls conducted in both Iowa, as well as nationwide. Fellow candidate businessman Herman Cain first saw a sharp rise in the polls, but in the weeks following, Cain was the subject of a scandal involving accusations of sexual harassment during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association, as well as an accusation that he had participated in a 13-year affair with an Atlanta businesswoman. On December 3, 2011, in Atlanta, Georgia, Cain officially announced the suspension of his campaign, due to the various allegations. Despite the suspension of his campaign, the Republican Party of Iowa will still report caucus vote totals for Cain.

On December 10, 2011, the first of two final debates to be conducted in Iowa before the caucuses was held, and hosted by ABC News, The Des Moines Register, and the Iowa Republican Party. The debate was the first to occur following Cain's campaign suspension, with Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum participating in the debate. Jon Huntsman, who had decided not to contest Iowa, instead focusing his efforts on winning the New Hampshire primary, was not invited to participate in the debate. The debate followed an increase in support for Gingrich in statewide polls in Iowa. Romney received criticism when he attempted to bet fellow candidate Rick Perry $10,000, when discussing the issue of his past support of a healthcare mandate.

A second debate was held on December 15, 2011, and took place in Sioux City, Iowa. It was hosted by Fox News and the Iowa Republican Party, and moderated by Bret Baier. Participants in the debate included Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich was once again the target of his competitors. Ron Paul was also challenged for his stance on Iran. Paul continued, "I don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I would like to reduce them because there would be less chance of war. But to declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims and say all Muslims are the same, this is dangerous talk. Yeah, there are some radicals. But they don't come here to kill us because we're free and prosperous. Do they go to Switzerland and Sweden? That is absurd." Paul later stated, "why do we have 900 bases in 130 countries and we're totally bankrupt. How do you rebuild a military when we have no money? How are we going to take care of the people? I think this wild goal to have another war in the name of defense is the dangerous thing. The danger is really us overreacting. We need a strong national defense, and we need to only go to war with a declaration of war."

In the final weeks leading up to the caucuses, a majority of the candidates spent a large amount of time campaigning in the state. Romney also visited the state, but spent most of December focusing his efforts on the New Hampshire primary instead. Polling in the final weeks saw a surge of support for Ron Paul, with Gingrich's support beginning to falter. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling between December 16 until December 18, 2011, showed Paul with the lead for the first time, with 23% support. Romney had 20%, and Gingrich saw a steep drop in support with 14%. Another poll conducted by Iowa State University, KCRG-TV and The Gazette between December 8–18, 2011, also found Paul in the lead with 27.5% of support, with Gingrich close behind at 25.3%. A Rasmussen Reports poll on December 19, 2011, found Mitt Romney with the most support at 25%, with Paul at 20%, and Gingrich at 16%. The final week before the caucus witnessed a surprise surge in the polls for Santorum, who rose to 15% behind Paul at 22% and Romney at 24%.

Santorum had spent months in Iowa, traveling to all 99 counties and holding some 381 town hall meetings over the course of the campaign. He had difficulty raising money, traveling around the state in a pickup truck instead of a bus like other candidates. Near the end of the campaign many undecided voters appeared to gravitate towards him at the expense of candidates such as Gingrich, Perry, and Bachmann.

The 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses were originally scheduled to begin on February 6, 2012, but on September 29, 2011, the entire schedule of caucuses and primaries was disrupted, however, when it was announced that the Republican Party of Florida had decided to move up its primary to January 31, in an attempt to bring attention to its own primary contest. Because of the move, the Republican National Committee decided to strip Florida of half of its delegates. As a result, the Iowa Republican Party, along with New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada then sought to move their caucuses back into early January. All but Nevada confirmed their caucus and primary dates to take place throughout January, with Iowa deciding to hold their contest on January 3, 2012.

Total political expenditures in Iowa set a new record, totaling over $12 million, with an estimated two-thirds coming from super PACs. Super PACs were allowed to unlimited amounts of money and keep contributors anonymous. $10 million was spent in television advertising by candidates and super PACs across the state by the end of 2011. Romney's campaign was by far the largest overall spender. His "Restore Our Future" super PAC spent $4 million in attack ads against Gingrich beginning on December 9. In the final days of the campaign and immediately after the results came in, Gingrich expressed anger toward Romney and the negative "Restore Our Future" campaign. A study conducted by Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group showed that 45% of all television ads in Iowa were negative ads against Gingrich; 20% were negative ads against Romney; 10% were positive ads for Romney; 6% were positive ads for Gingrich; 8% were negative ads against Perry; 8% were positive ads for Perry; and 3% were positive ads for Paul.

Romney was endorsed by three of the state's five largest newspapers: The Des Moines Register, the Quad City Times, and the Sioux City Journal. The two other large state newspapers, the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Waterloo Cedar Fall Courier, did not endorse any candidate. Iowa's governor Terry Branstad did not endorse any candidate, nor did Senator Chuck Grassley.

On election day the eight names were listed on the ballot in alphabetical order. Cain was included on the ballot although he had dropped out of the race.

Although voting took place on January 3, official results were not released until January 19. The certified results showed Santorum narrowly ahead of Romney with 29,839 votes to Romney's 29,805, a margin of 34 votes. The Iowa Republican Party initially declined to formally declare a winner because results from eight precincts were lost and could not be certified.

The day after her unsatisfactory sixth-place performance in Iowa, Bachmann announced she was dropping out of the presidential race. Following his low fifth-place finish, Perry initially announced he was "reassessing" his campaign "to determine whether there is a path forward," but subsequently stated that he would continue on to New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Remembering Woodrow Wilson

On February 3, 1924 (96 years ago today), Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, died at his home in Washington, DC at the age of 67. He had suffered a stroke late in his presidency that he never recovered from. Wilson served two terms as President from 1913 to 1921.

Born on December 28, 1856, Woodrow Wilson first went by the name of Tommy, but later began using his middle name. He was the son of the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson and was lived in Virginia during the civil war. Wilson became an academic, serving as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With the Republican Party split in 1912, he led his Democratic Party to control both the White House and Congress for the first time in nearly two decades.

In his first term as President, Wilson got the Democratic Congress to pass a legislative agenda that few presidents have equaled, including the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and an income tax. Child labor was regulated by the Keating–Owen Act of 1916, but the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1918. Wilson also had Congress pass the Adamson Act, which imposed an 8-hour workday for railroads. While Wilson accomplished a very progressive legislative agenda, his legacy is tarnished by the fact that he was deeply racist in his beliefs and his administration racially segregated federal employees and the Navy, wiping out progress that previous administrations had achieved.

Wilson was narrowly re-elected in 1916, using the slogan, "He kept us out of war". But Wilson's second term was dominated by American entry into World War I. While American non-interventionist sentiment was strong, American neutrality was challenged in early 1917 when the German Empire began unrestricted submarine warfare and tried to enlist Mexico to attack the U.S. In April 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war in order to make "the world safe for democracy." During the war, Wilson military decisions to his generals, focusing instead on domestic and economic management. In 1917, he began the United States' first draft since the Civil War. He borrowed billions of dollars in war funding through the newly established Federal Reserve Bank and Liberty Bonds. He promoted labor union cooperation and he supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act. He also took over control of the railroads. Wilson also suppressed anti-war movements with the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, a crackdown which broadened and intensified to include real and suspected anarchists and communists. After years of opposition, Wilson was pressured to change his position on women's suffrage in 1918, which he advocated as a war measure.


When the outcome of the war was decided, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. In 1918, he issued his Fourteen Points, in which he proposed how a post-war world could avoid another terrible conflict. In 1919, he went to Paris to lobby for the formation of a League of Nations as part of the Treaty of Versailles. For his sponsorship of the League of Nations, Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. In the midst of this intense fight and while on a tour promoting the League of Nations, Wilson suffered a severe stroke. A conspiracy involving his wife and his physician hid the extent of his illness from the nation and allowed him to remain control of the White House until he left office in March 1921. Despite his poor health, he was able to block any compromises that would enable the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. He even attempted to run for a third term. The Democrats were weakened by Wilson's actions and by the slowness of Wilson to embrace women's suffrage in comparison to Republican candidate Warren G. Harding. Harding promised a "a return to normalcy" and was elected in an unprecedented popular vote landslide in 1920.

Wilson was too ill to leave Washington when his term ended, although he did outlive his successor. On November 10, 1923, Wilson made a short Armistice Day radio speech from the library of his home, his last national address. The following day, Armistice Day itself, he spoke briefly from the front steps to more than 20,000 well wishers gathered outside the house. On February 3, 1924, Wilson died in his S Street home as a result of a stroke and other heart-related problems. He was interred in a sarcophagus in Washington National Cathedral, the only president interred in Washington, D.C.