When we asked Democratic analyst and South Dakota State Senator Angie Buhl and Republican analyst Kermit Staggers if the Iowa Caucuses influence the South Dakota primary, they said it's unlikely. Buhl says, "I think it's tough to say that Iowa really influences South Dakota."
Both analysts say you have to consider the timeline for the votes: Iowa happens in January and then South Dakotans don't cast ballots until June. Staggers says, "by the time we have our primary in June in South Dakota, the person who's going to become the nominee for the parties has already been determined." Buhl goes on to say, "four/five months is an eternity in politics and how the conversation goes nationally."
Buhl says news about the economy, for example, can turn the tide.
And Staggers says although South Dakota's voters are often looking for similar candidates as our neighbors in Iowa, there are big differences too, one in particular. He says, "I think it was well over 50% at least were evangelicals going out to participate in the caucuses. in South Dakota we don't really talk in those terms like they talk about evangelicals in Iowa."
And when asked if the caucuses are an indicator of who the ultimate winner will be, both analysts say, sometimes, but definitely not always. Buhl says, "in '08, clearly President Obama won that, at the same time, in the Republican Caucus, Mike Huckabee won that, then didn't get much further than Iowa."
They say the caucuses are more of a vehicle for thinning out the race. Staggers says, "helping to propel some candidates forward into other primaries and also eliminating many candidates."