The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are almost upon us! If you are political junkie like me you are well aware of this, but for everyone else not glued to every piece of political news, I thought I would make a list of eight things you should know about the 2016 presidential primary.

  1. What is the difference between a primary and caucus?

Well a primary is more or less a normal election but its between candidates of the same party. A caucus however is bit more complicated. You see the people of a community get together in one place and move to different areas, depending on which candidate they support. They then take a vote and the person with the least support is eliminated and all of their supporters have to choose between the remaining candidates. The entire process can take several hours and because of this turn out tends to be low, no matter how important it. As a result almost always the best organized candidate tends to win them. In the 2008 Democratic Primary Barack Obama made Hillary Clinton pay dearly for not investing in an organization and it was a big reason for why he won. So whoever wins Iowa, on either side, will most likely have the best organized operation.

2. What are the first few contests?

Well just to make things extra confusing both parties don’t have their primaries on the same date, because screw you that’s why. Here are the first four primaries of each party

Republican Primary

  • Iowa Caucus February 1st
  • New Hampshire Primary February 8th
  • South Carolina Primary February 20th
  • Nevada Caucus February 23rd

Democratic Primary

  • Iowa Caucus February 1st
  • New Hampshire Primary February 8th
  • Nevada Caucus February 20th
  • South Carolina Primary February 27th

Don’t ask me what is wrong with Nevada and South Carolina, but that is just how they and the party leadership decided to do it. All four of these are pretty small states but are also geographically diverse and represent very different portions of the electorate. They will give everyone a good indicator of how strong each candidate is and this will be very important going into March.

3. It will most likely be over by the end of March

The reason being a total of 28 states will be having their election in that month alone. It will be grueling and every delegate will be fought over. Not only will a lot of states be up for grabs but some of the biggest states in the country will be too, including Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois. Winning big in any of these states could very well tip the entire primary so be sure to watch those. I am not going to list out each state on this one but if you are curious one of my favorite blogs has an excellent map and you should check out their great map!

4. A lot of candidates will drop out in February.

The battle on the Democratic side is pretty much set and its unlikely either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton will drop out until after March. The same can not be said on the Republican side. Over a dozen candidates are still running and with such a crowded field there are bound to be a lot of hurt feelings. Mike Huckabee has said he will drop out if he doesn’t do well in Iowa and Jeb Bush has said the same if he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire. Even if others haven’t said it they will undoubtedly drop out so they don’t waste their time and money on a lost cause. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter though. For example Jeb has a lot of money so if he drops out and endorses someone that would be a huge boon, and Mike Huckabee has a strong organization so his endorsement could mean a lot as well. The big endorsements to watch will be Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. Both men still have plenty of national strength to tip the balance to one candidate or another so even if they can’t win it doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

5. How long will it take for the GOP field to settle?

This is something a lot of very smart political operatives aren’t sure on. If a lot of candidates do stay in the race it will be a huge benefit to Donald Trump and will likely make him the nominee, but if the field narrows considerably by March then it would be a huge gift to whoever becomes the anti-trump candidate. This person will most likely be one of these four men, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich. All four are betting heavily on doing well in New Hampshire and whoever does best of these four will most likely become the anti-trump and the establishment favorite. Most think it will be Marco Rubio but Chris Christie has been surging in recent weeks so it could be anyone’s ball game in New Hampshire.

6. Do Trump and Cruz have staying power?

Both men have really shocked the party elite with how well they have done and both men are leading nationally at one and two. Not only that but Cruz has raised an eye popping 64 million dollars so far and has gotten a lot of evangelical support. These are two very good things for a man trying to lead the Republican party. For Trump he has barely raised any money at all, but that is mostly because he is self funding his campaign. The man has been a juggernaut and all attacks have seemingly bounced off of them. While neither has much policy experience that hasn’t seemed to matter so far. If that trend keeps up then it is likely one of them will be the Republican nominee.

7. The Democratic primary is far from settled.

While the conventional wisdom has been that Hillary will eventually crush Bernie Sanders some cracks have been forming in that narrative. Their appears to be a Sanders surge in Iowa, and this is very bad news for Hillary. He has also shown a great deal of strength in New Hampshire as well and if she loses both states then there will be stories for a week about how her campaign is floundering. Sanders has shown a lot of weakness with Blacks and Latinos based off his weak polling in South Carolina and Nevada. If that doesn’t change then Sanders will go down in flames in March, but if he makes progress with these groups we could very well see a socialist be the nominee for the Democratic party.

8. Be ready for the polls to be wrong

Polling has taken some bad hits in recent years, with half of polling firms blowing the 2012 Presidential election and virtually everyone getting several key states wrong in 2014. The polling industry is getting hit by a pretty hard one two punch. First, no one uses landlines anymore. In the old days that was the easiest way to get an accurate sample size but now with cellphones taking over everything and people keeping their old area codes its become impossible to do that. Secondly the demographics of the country are shifting quickly and it has become very hard to figure out how to properly weigh the data when you get an accurate sample size to begin with! To make this task even more impossible, polling in the early states has been very hit or miss even before this hit the polling industry. So after the Primaries dates don’t be surprised if a lot of pundits are scratching their heads.

Keeping all of that in mind, it will likely be a wild ride and there are no doubt going to be more than a few surprises this election, and we don’t even know who the nominees are yet!

If you liked this be sure to check out some of our other articles!


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