Michele Bachmann: Early in the 2012 presidential race, U.S. Rep. Bachmann looked like she might have an edge in Iowa. She became the first woman to win the Iowa Republican straw poll, edging out Texas congressman Ron Paul and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who finished third. But it was a dubious predictor of the caucus: She finished sixth, dead last, and dropped out of the race the next day. She may have helped nix the straw poll, too: Iowa Republicans have since dropped the tradition.
Tim Pawlenty: No Iowa straw poll would have been good news for Pawlenty, who ended his campaign in August 2011 shortly after finishing in third place. The former two-term Republican governor had been burning through campaign cash all summer, and his team hoped a decent finish in the poll could keep them going for at least a few more weeks. He dropped out the day after the poll and shortly afterward threw his support behind the eventual Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Walter Mondale: Vice President Mondale was so overwhelmingly the favorite for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 1984 Iowa caucus that most of the news focused on who would finish second. He won in a landslide in Iowa with 49% of the vote. The second-place finisher, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, pulled in roughly 16% support. Hart rode his surprise finish into another surprise — victory in New Hampshire — but Mondale was still the eventual Democratic nominee that year.
Hubert Humphrey: President Lyndon Johnson’s unexpected late withdrawal from the presidential race in 1968 meant a late start for the vice president and former U.S. senator. He missed earlier state primaries, and Iowa didn’t do an early caucus back then. Instead, he relied on prominent figures in the labor movement and Democratic Party to help him win over delegates. He eventually landed the nomination, beating another Minnesotan, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, in the process.