The Iowa Caucuses … From a Guy Who’s Been a Candidate in a Couple

By Mike Huckabee Published on January 15, 2024

We are just hours away from the Iowa Caucuses which will be the first real test of the 2024 Presidential Election. Having won the caucuses in 2008, I do understand some things about them and their importance. You will hear some of the know-it-all news commentators talk about how irrelevant the caucuses are and how that the winner of the caucuses doesn’t often end up being the nominee.

The Real Story Out of Iowa

That may be, but the Iowa caucuses do a couple of things that the know-it-alls forget: First, it’s not that the caucuses always pick the winner. It’s that the caucuses eliminate some of the candidates that the media had picked to be the winners. It’s not as much about winning them as it is about not LOSING.

Hey, if you’re a political junkie, or even if you’re not, pay attention to the events of the next 10 days.

In 2008, my victory there was the undoing of Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson. In 2012, when Rick Santorum had a surprise victory, it was the beginning of the end for Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. In 2016, it was the night that put Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in virtually a two-man race and forecast the demise of Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and me.

So yes, it will be important to see who comes out of Iowa with momentum, but the real story will be who crashes against the rocks and will never seriously sail again. Perhaps some will limp forward to New Hampshire or South Carolina, but the race will become populated with fewer candidates soon after Iowa.

No Drama in the Process

And the caucuses are not like any election process. There is no early voting. No machine tabulations. No late night boxes suddenly discovered. On what is often one of the coldest nights of the winter, people have to leave their homes and assemble in public places like a school, church, city hall, community center, or gymnasium. Once there, candidates or their representatives make final pitches for the votes. People are asked to physically indicate who they support by going to a section of the facility. They will vote on a ballot, but the numbers are known and reported immediately. There is none of the drama of waiting two weeks after the election to determine who won.

If You’re Still in the Hunt — The Race is On

And because the first in the nation primary in New Hampshire is just a week and a day later, most of the candidates who believe they still have a shot will get on airplanes that very night and arrive in New Hampshire in the early morning hours of the next day. In 2008, when I won the caucuses, we enjoyed a wild celebration of our supporters by shocking the world with the victory and then around midnight boarded a chartered plane filled with our campaign workers, press (many of whom hadn’t bothered to pay attention to me before) and supporters like Chuck Norris and his wife who campaigned with me for several months in the race. People asked me where Chuck sat on the plane and I told them, “Wherever he wanted to.”

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We arrived in New Hampshire around 4am, went to a hotel to freshen up, and then I started nonstop back-to-back press interviews with media from all over the world that lasted for almost four straight uninterrupted hours. There is no “day off” or resting. If you are still in the hunt, you continue the grueling pace of a campaign. Our team went months without eating a meal at a table with silverware or ordering from menus. We ate every meal from a paper sack in a car or bus while traveling to the next event. The best way to describe a campaign is to live off cold pizza and hot Cokes. If there is glamour in it, most of us never experienced it.

Pay Attention in the Next 10 Days

But this insane process is how we start the process to pick the leader of the free world. It’s messy, at times disgusting, and beyond exhausting for most of us who engage in it. But it’s better than having a gunfight or a military coup d’état to pick a President.

Hey, if you’re a political junkie, or even if you’re not, pay attention to the events of the next 10 days. You might not yet know who will be President, but you will probably know some folks who most certainly will NOT be President. And that’s the part of this that the know-it-alls in the media mob never really understand.


Mike Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas and longtime conservative commentator on issues in culture and current events. A New York Times best-selling author, he hosts the weekly talk show Huckabee on TBN.

Originally published at Reprinted with permission.

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