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Iowa Has Long History Setting Primary Stages

Iowa caucus history is filled with little-known candidates out hustling early front-runners and upsetting conventional political wisdom.

The Iowa "winner" has rarely become president, but caucus "losers" have had to rebound quickly for a win elsewhere or vanish into political obscurity.

Since 1976, when Jimmy Carter (search) rose from obscurity to win Iowa, candidates have been trying to recreate that magic.

"Carter, of course, is the quintessential example of how the Iowa caucuses might work, and everybody hopes to do it that way. Nobody's done it quite as well since," said Arthur Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University.

After then-Colorado Sen. Gary Hart (search) placed second in 1984, the one established rule in Iowa has been that exceeding expectations is nearly as good as an outright victory.

Of course, Iowa hasn't always been a yardstick of eventual success. Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) won in 1988, but gained little momentum, eventually folding to Massachusetts Sen. Michael Dukakis (search). Sen. Bob Dole beat Vice President Bush in 1988, but Bush later won the nomination and the White House.

With eight candidates in the race this year, Iowa is experiencing competition it hasn't seen and years, but the impact of Monday's contest won't be known for weeks or months, leaving history still to be made in 2004.

Click here to view a fair and balanced report by Fox News' Major Garrett.