The first contests tend to seal the front-runners for each party. If a presidential candidate does poorly in the early contests, he or she would appear to be unelectable – and would have a tough time persuading people to continue contributing time and money to their campaigns. Absent donations, it’s hard to afford to compete in subsequent races.
Here are the first five GOP contests of the 2012 election cycle.
Jan. 3 – Iowa caucus: 28 delegates at stake
Jan. 10 – New Hampshire primary: 12 delegates, distributed proportionally
Jan. 21 – South Carolina primary: 25 delegates, winner take all
Jan. 31 – Florida primary: 50 delegates, winner take all
Feb. 4 – Nevada caucus: 28 delegates