History of the Democratic Primaries since 1984
Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

On Monday, the state of Iowa will be holding a caucus in order to see which candidate is the most popular in that state. In the primaries, Iowa is seen as a critical state to win. This is because Iowa is the first state in each election cycle to hold elections on who will be the nominee for a party. Whichever candidate will win Iowa will appear as if they are running a strong campaign and this will benefit them when elections for other states are held later on. As the democratic primaries get underway, let’s have a look at the history of the democratic primaries since 1984. 

Note: Primaries held while an incumbent Democrat was running for re-election are not included. 

1984

In 1984, the race was close by popular vote, and had three major candidates. They were Walter Mondale, Jesse Jackson, and Gary Hart. Mondale won the Iowa caucus by a margin of 32 points, but, out of the 9 contests held after the Iowa caucus, Gary Hart won 6. It was looking good for Hart at the start. However, Mondale won 12 out of the following 15 contests. Now, it looked like Mondale was headed for the nomination. However, Hart then won 8 out of the 11 remaining contests. In the end, Hart won more contests than Mondale did, but he also won less delegates than Mondale, who ended up winning the nomination. In the end, Mondale won 38.3% of the popular vote, Hart won 35.9% of the popular vote, and Jesse Jackson won 18.1% of the popular vote. Mondale went on to face incumbent president Ronald Reagan in the general election, but lost horribly in the worst electoral college defeat in US history.   

1988

In the 1988 primaries had 7 notable candidates. They were Al Gore, Micheal Dukakis, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Paul Simon, Gary Hart, and Bruce Babbitt. The Iowa caucus was very contentious. The winner of Iowa, Dick Gephardt, only received 28% of the vote. Meanwhile, runner up Paul Simon received 24% of the vote, and Micheal Dukakis, who finished in third place, received 21% of the vote. The other 27% of the vote went to a few of the other candidates running for president. In the elections that followed the Iowa caucus, Dukakis did well. He won 4 out of the 6 states holding contests between February 9th and March 7th. However, super tuesday was a lot more contentious. Out of the 21 contests held on super tuesday, Micheal Dukakis won 9, Al Gore won 6, Jesse Jackson won 5, and Dick Gephardt won only 1. The 11 contests that followed super tuesday were also very contentious. However, most of them were between only two candidates this time. Out of those 11 contests, Dukakis won 5, Jackson also won 5, and Paul Simon won only 1. The race was close at this point and could go either way. However, the rest of the primaries were nowhere near as close. Dukakis ended up winning nearly all of the remaining elections. In the end, Dukakis had 700 more delegates than runner-up Jesse Jackson. In terms of the popular vote, Dukakis won 42.37%, Jackson won 29.34%, Al Gore won 13.49%, Gerphardt won 6.14%, and Simon won 4.68%. Dukakis went on to face then vice president George H.W. Bush in the general election, but lost badly after initially leading in the polls. 

1992

In the 1992 election, there were 5 notable candidates running for the democratic nomination. They were Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Tom Harkin, and Bob Kerrey. In the Iowa caucus, Tom Harkin won by a landslide. He won 76.55% of the popular vote in Iowa. It was looking good for Harkin at first. However, in the early states after the Iowa caucus, Harkin struggled to win. When super tuesday arrived, all the notable candidates with the exception of Bob Kerrey won a state. The election didn’t seem to have a clear winner so far. However, after super tuesday, Bill Clinton picked up steam and won many of the primaries. Bill Clinton won most of the primaries in april, and all of the primaries in may. In the end, Bill Clinton won the nomination in a landslide victory. Although Clinton only won 52% of the popular vote, he received 78% of the delegates. He won 37 out of the 53 elections held in the primaries. Clinton went on to defeat incumbent president George H.W. Bush in the general election, and won a second term in 1996. 

2000

In the 2000 election, Iowa wasn’t very competitive. The primaries were an election between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, and Al Gore ended up winning Iowa by a landslide. Gore won 63.42% of the popular vote in Iowa, while Bradley won 34.88%. This was a good representation of the rest of the primaries, in which Gore won all of the contests held. In the end, Gore won 75.4% of the popular vote, and 6 times as many delegates as his opponent. Gore was very popular because he served as vice president during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and Clinton was popular among democrats at that time. However, Gore went on to lose to George W. Bush in the general election in one of the most controversial and closest elections in history.

2004

In 2004, the democratic primaries had 4 notable candidates: John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, and Dick Gephardt. John Kerry won the Iowa caucus, gaining 37.6% of the vote. Meanwhile, John Edwards finished second, winning 31.8% of the popular vote. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt finished 3rd and 4th, gaining 18.0% and 10.6% of the popular vote respectively. The Iowa caucus for this election cycle saw less than 3,000 people vote in it. Although the Iowa caucus was somewhat close for this election, the rest of the primaries were nowhere near close. John Kerry won the primaries by a landslide, winning 51 out of the 56 elections held. Kerry also won 61.0% of the popular vote, while the candidate who finished second, John Edwards, only won 19.4% of the popular vote. Kerry also won more than 4 times as many delegates as Edwards did. Kerry went on to lose to incumbent president George W. Bush by a fairly close magin in the general election.  

2008

In 2008, the Iowa caucus was a three horse race between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards, who was the running mate of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. In the end, Obama ended up winning the popular vote, and ended up gaining the most delegates. Hillary Clinton finished 2nd in delegate count, but finished 3rd behind John Edwards in terms of the popular vote. Hillary Clinton would go on to win 2 of the three early state primaries after the Iowa caucus. However, on super tuesday, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton won several states. The delegate count on super tuesday was very close, with Obama winning 847 delegates and Clinton winning 834 delegates. The election could go either way at this point, but Obama ended up winning all of the 11 primaries held in mid-february. This was a huge boost for him, and although the election was very close, Obama ended up getting more delegates than Clinton, and eventually won the nomination. This is despite the fact that nation-wide, Clinton won the popular vote in the primaries. Obama went on to win the general election over senator John McCain, and won a second term in 2012. 

2016

In 2016, the democratic primaries were a two horse race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton heading into the Iowa caucus. The caucus was really close, but Hillary Clinton went on to win it by a margin of 0.25%. After that, Clinton won South Carolina and Nevada, which were two other key early states. Additionally, Clinton was seen as the winner of the many primaries held on super tuesday, and was also seen as the winner of the many primaries held in mid-march. In the end, Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in terms of the nation-wide popular vote by a margin of 12%, and also secured the nomination by getting more delegates than Sanders did. In the end, the primaries were very controversial as many accused the DNC of rigging the primary in favor of Hillary Clinton by supporting her and giving her advantages. Hillary Clinton would go on to lose the general election to businessman Donald Trump in one of the most polarizing elections in American history.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu