Voting Begins Today – How Have Women Candidates Historically Done in IA and NH?


This month, the presidential election is kicking into high gear with the first primaries of 2020. Today, candidates will vie for votes in the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday the 11th.  There’s a lot at stake for these first states – since 1976, the eventual Democratic nominee has almost always won either Iowa or New Hampshire, with only one exception. An early win can give Democratic candidates a chance to gain momentum and push themselves to the front of the pack.

How have women presidential candidates done in these “first of the nation” contests in the past?

Only one woman has won in both Iowa and New Hampshire before: Hillary Clinton, though in different election cycles. In 2016, Clinton narrowly beat opponent Bernie Sanders in Iowa, although in New Hampshire Sanders took a heavy lead. Back in 2008, Clinton lost Iowa to eventual nominee Barack Obama, while winning New Hampshire.

What does that mean for women running today?

In recent days, the topic of electability has been front and center the 2020 presidential race, when Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out on the January debate stage that she and Senator Amy Klobuchar had never lost an election – compared to the men on stage, who had lost ten races collectively.

“Electability” is often a code word for sexism, but research shows that 8 in 10 voter reject the idea that America isn’t ready for a woman president. Everyone’s watching to see how the two highest polling women in the field – Senators Warren and Klobuchar– fare. These early states can help determine who gets attention from donors and the media, which could propel a candidate to the nomination.

Although voters hold women to a higher standard when it comes to running for executive positions, constituents in both Iowa and New Hampshire are clearly okay with the idea of women running for office. New Hampshire had the nation’s first all-female congressional delegation, Iowa just elected its first female governor, and history shows us that a woman can win the presidential primary in these states.

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