One of the Republican presidential candidates is headed to a victory in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses that could be historic, and I don’t mean that in a nice way.

Since the Iowa caucuses became important in the 1970s, the lowest proportion of votes captured by the winning candidate in either major political party was 26%. That was Republican Bob Dole’s total in his ill-fated 1996 campaign. This year’s GOP “winner” has an excellent shot at breaking Dole’s unenviable record.

A feeble Iowa win hurts a political party in several ways. First, weaker candidates are less likely to drop out, meaning that time and money that might have been used to attack the other side are instead burned up in an internecine primary (Dole was being bloodied by Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes into early March of 1996). Second, it raises doubts in the party about the front runner at a time when coalescence around an eventual nominee is the desired outcome.

Given the evident inability of any of the current candidates to generate enthusiasm in even one third of Iowa Republicans, and the fact that the caucus “winner” could well be someone that 3/4 of the voters rejected, I am comfortable predicting right now the winner of the GOP Iowa Caucuses: President Obama.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and served as Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama Administration. @KeithNHumphreys