Iowa Democratic caucuses, 2004
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|Iowa results by county
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In the United States, the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses (held January 19) were the first major test of some of the leading contenders for the Democratic Party's nomination as its candidate for the 2004 presidential election.
- Howard B. Dean III, former governor of Vermont
- John R. Edwards, U.S. senator from North Carolina
- Richard A. "Dick" Gephardt, U.S. representative from Missouri
- John F. Kerry, U.S. senator from Massachusetts
- Dennis J. Kucinich, U.S. representative from Ohio
The first contenders for the nomination arrived in Iowa almost two years before the caucuses were held. The first to arrive were Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean, who began to make occasional speeches there and started to build an organization. In 2003, John Kerry, John Edwards, Carol Moseley Braun, and Dennis Kucinich all began to campaign heavily in the state.
Gephardt went into the campaign as the front runner. He was from a neighboring state, Missouri, had strong union backing, and he had won the state in 1988. During 2003, however, Howard Dean began to grow in popularity across the country on a strong anti-war message that appealed to the party base. Gephardt continued to do well, but Kerry and Edwards both sank to single digit levels of support. Kucinich and Moseley Braun were never considered strong contenders and polled poorly throughout the campaign.
Three of the Democratic candidates sat out the caucuses. Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton did not believe they could get sufficient support in the state and concentrated their efforts on New Hampshire. Wesley Clark got into the race at too late a time to be competitive in Iowa.
On January 10, Howard Dean got a major boost when long serving Iowa Senator Tom Harkin endorsed him. On January 15, Carol Moseley Braun withdrew from the race and also threw her support behind Dean.
During the last weeks of the campaign however the polls began to indicate a significant change in support. Dean and Gephardt had been hammering each other with negative advertisements. Both candidates began hemorrhaging support to revived Edwards and Kerry campaigns. Edwards received a major boost when he was endorsed by Iowa's largest newspaper. At the last minute Edwards also reached a deal with Kucinich for all of Kucinich supporters to go to the Edwards camp if they were not viable in their caucuses.
The results were very similar to that indicated by last minute polling but were a surprise compared with weeks earlier.
|Iowa Democratic caucuses, 2004|
Source: Des Moines Register
It was reported that 124,331 Iowans participated in the caucuses. The initial county caucuses assigned delegates for further caucuses with delegates not being bound to vote for the candidate. Actual delegates to the Democratic National Convention would be chosen later: 29 at the district caucuses on April 24, 2004 and 16 at the state convention on June 12, 2004. Besides these 45 delegates assigned through the caucus system, 10 other delegates are assigned by the state party and one is elected at large at the state convention. The successful candidate at the 2004 Democratic National Convention required approximately 2160 delegates to win the nomination.
The results showed a similar pattern across the state. Dean failed to win the support of the college areas, as he had hoped, and Gephardt was not successful in winning the union areas.
The Iowa caucuses revived the once moribund campaign of Kerry, who proceeded to the New Hampshire primary as one of the front runners, and ultimately captured the Democratic nomination. Edwards, who had been written off even more than Kerry, used the Iowa results and the later South Carolina primary to give him another boost.
The results were a blow to Dean, who had for weeks been expected to win the caucuses. He planned afterward to quickly move to New Hampshire where he expected to do well and regain momentum. At the time, he had far more money than any other candidate and did not spend much of it in Iowa. Dean's aggressive post-caucus speech to his supporters, culminating with a hoarse scream that came to be known as the Dean Scream, was widely shown and mocked on television, although the effect on his campaign was unclear.
The results were disastrous for Dick Gephardt. He had frequently stated that a win in Iowa was essential for his candidacy. He had come in as the front-runner two years previous but ended up fourth, effectively ending his campaign. He cancelled planned campaign stops in New Hampshire and dropped out of the race on January 20.
Dennis Kucinich was never expected to win much support. His fifth place finish did not affect his plans to continue campaigning.