Republican Party presidential candidate Jon Huntsman skipped the Iowa caucuses and put all his energy toward New Hampshire. In defending this choice, Huntsman declared, “They pick corn in Iowa, and pick presidents here in New Hampshire.”
It was a good line. But not only did the claim not lift him to victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, Huntsman got the state wrong. He should have said South Carolina.
The Palmetto State is perfect in presidential prediction.
In1980 the Palmetto State instituted its primary for the Republican Party, and in 1988 the Democrats followed suit. If we look at every non-incumbent who captured the presidency in the eight elections 1980 to 2008, we see a remarkable difference between Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
In their caucuses and primaries over the past 30 years, Iowa and New Hampshire have voted for fewer than half of the nation’s presidents. South Carolina, in contrast, has always voted for the future president, regardless of party. It’s the ultimate bellwether state.
We’ll talk more about this in the blog in our next few posts, but here’s a couple hints:
A. On the Republican side, the combination of traditional values, Christian evangelicalism, and take-no-prisoners campaigning is spot-on for the contemporary conservative faithful.
B. On the Democratic side, the combination of racial diversity, working-class voters, and geographically distinct cultural pockets matches the coalitions that liberals must put together.
If past is prologue, if a Republican wants to become the next president he better win the South Carolina primary on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 21. Maybe (what follows is also a tease for an upcoming post) Newt Gingrich is right.