Gary Hart, a leading contender for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination until allegations of an affair forced him out of the race, was back in Iowa this week as he mulls running again. During a visit with reporters, Hart claimed credit for “inventing” the Iowa Caucuses as a major event in the presidential selection process. Hart says in 1972 when he was working on South Dakota Senator George McGovern’s campaign, they didn’t think they could do well in New Hampshire’s opening primary against Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, so they decided to campaign in Iowa. Hart says if that’s indeed the genesis of the predominance of the Caucuses, he’s going to claim credit for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of Caucus-related economic activity to the state.In 1968, the national Democratic Party started the process of changing its nomination rules to try to get rid of the perception that presidential nominees were chosen by leaders rather than voters. Iowa Governor Harold Hughes chaired the party’s reform committee, and helped position Iowa’s Caucuses at the head of the pack. And Hart is correct in saying McGovern’s decision to challenge perceived front-runner Muskie here, before New Hampshire, provided McGovern a significant boost toward gaining the party’s 1972 presidential nomination. Nearly 36 percent of the delegates elected by the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses in 1972 were uncommitted, but Muskie got 35.5 percent and McGovern a surprising 22.6 percent.
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