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Iowa Democratic caucuses, 1976

winner of the caucuses

During the 1976 Iowa Democratic caucuses, a little-known Southern Governor, Jimmy Carter, campaigned heavily and ended up capturing 27.7 percent of the vote, the highest among five candidates. Soon, an outpouring of media coverage on Carter emerged.

The campaign

Carter, the little-known Morris Udall, who was leading in the state 30% to 12%, but then little over a week later, Carter began to take off, leading Udall 38% to 21%.

Carter mostly focused his campaign on blue collar workers and farmers in the state. Udall focus on labor unions. The battle became increasingly tough for Carter, as he had little money and no media coverage, unlike the other candidates. Carter spent all the time he could in the state.


Uncommitted won 14,508 votes (37%) to Carter's 10,764 votes (27%). Birch Bayh, a Senator from Indiana got 5,148 (13%). Udall dropped to 5th place with only 6%, behind Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma, leading to Harris coining the term "winnowed in", referring to his surprisingly strong showing.[1][2][3][4] After his upset win, the media swarmed to Carter. He now had the momentum to continue, and would, in fact, go on to win the nomination.

At the time, the Iowa caucus attracted little media coverage, but after the 1976 election more people began to pay attention to future contests.


  1. ^ Jules Witcover, No Way to Pick A President: How Money and Hired Guns Have Debased American Elections, 2001, p.166
  2. ^ George C. Edwards, John Howard Kessel, Bert A. Rockman, Researching the presidency: vital questions, new approaches, 1993, p.60
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  4. ^
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