The Rocky Road Ahead

Article excerpt

With Iowa's complex precinct caucuses behind them, the presidential candidates now move on to New Hampshire. It's a more straightforward and more inclusive affair.

Voters will undertake the simpler, more familiar exercise of going to traditional polling places, casting their ballots and going home on Tuesday. Turnout is traditionally much higher in New Hampshire than in Iowa, where limited numbers of its citizens braved the wintry chills Thursday night searching out the caucuses in various private homes, church basements and schools.

The key question now is whether the Iowa results will provide a "bounce" in New Hampshire for those candidates who met or exceeded expectations out where the tall corn grows. On that score, history offers an uncertain guide.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter ran first in the Iowa Caucuses, went on to victory in New Hampshire and captured the Democrats' nomination. But four years later, Republican Ronald Reagan was upset by the senior George Bush in Iowa but made a strong comeback in New Hampshire and ultimately was nominated.

An important different element existed, however, in those examples. In 1976, about five weeks separated the Iowa and New Hampshire voting, giving the little-known Carter ample time to capitalize on the publicity and campaign money generated by his Iowa showing.

In 1980, the reverse was true for Reagan. He had run only a limited campaign in Iowa but bounced back in the intervening weeks with a more energetic effort in New Hampshire. Bush boasted that he had "The Big Mo" (for momentum) out of Iowa but was soon disabused of that overconfidence in the Granite State.

This time, if there are to be any "bounces" out of Iowa, there will be only five days in which they can be exploited by their beneficiaries. …