There are less than 30 days to go before anyone casts a vote for the next President of the United States. Years prior to the quadrennial elections can be very interesting -- and 2015 did not disappoint -- but there is a long way to go, not only until November 8 but until the Iowa caucuses February 1. This post is simply a reminder that both states have a tradition of the defying the conventional wisdom, so let's take a journey into the past.

In 1968, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy decided to go where no one else dared to go: run an anti-war campaign against a sitting President who four years earlier had won one of the greatest landslides in history. With his network of youthful volunteers, McCarthy braved the snows of New Hampshire and received an amount of votes no one expected. Final tally showed him actually losing the count to President Lyndon Johnson, 49% to 42%. Even though LBJ was only a write-in candidate, his electoral vulnerability was shown and he dropped out of the race shortly after.

In 1972, South Dakota Senator George McGovern leveraged a better-than-expected showing in Iowa to proceed doing much better-than-expected in New Hampshire against Maine Senator Edmund Muskie -- the establishment frontrunner and a neighbor. Muskie actually won 46% to 37%, but no one really expected McGovern to even come close. He eventually went on to secure the nomination and a record landslide loss.

In 1976 Iowa and New Hampshire were all about "Jimmy Who?" -- former one term Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter who was barely known and registering only slightly above an asterisk in national polls. In the immediate aftermath of Watergate and President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, Carter used an unpretentious, sincerity-filled demeanor, best displayed in many small groups in both states, to beat a field of much better known Democrats.

In 1980, it was more like "Jimmy What? as President Carter beat back the bad news of the Iranian hostage crisis and stagflation, plus an ill-advised speech seeming to blame Americans for a national funk, to soundly beat Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy in both states. Being a national icon from a bordering state did not help Kennedy.

Colorado Senator and former McGovern campaign manager Senator Gary Hart provided the real surprise in 1984. Vice President Walter Mondale's quest for the Democratic nomination defined "inevitability". Both Time and Newsweek published cover stories arguing that he could not be stopped. He not only won Iowa but did so with a commanding 49%-16.5% margin over Hart. But the shocker was that Mondale was held to under 50% and that Hart emerged from only about 1% in pre-caucus polls to shine much better than expected. Hart went on to win New Hampshire. Mondale's campaign regrouped, Hart went on to win a significant number of primaries, but Mondale won the nomination and went on to win only one state (his home, Minnesota) in November.

In 1988, televangelist Reverend Pat Robertson won the Iowa caucuses against both Vice-President George H.W. Bush and Senator Robert Dole, defining for the first time and into today the importance of the Born Again/evangelical vote in that state and in the GOP.

In 1992, Governor Bill Clinton came in a solid second place in New Hampshire against neighboring Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas to declare himself the "Comeback Kid" after his candidacy was declared all but dead following revelations of his long-time affair with Gennifer Flowers.

Arizona Senator John McCain's 2000 New Hampshire victory over the inevitable nominee Texas Governor George W. Bush made Bush and his people scramble to regroup -- but McCain's solid victory in 2008's New Hampshire primary helped him nail down his nomination after his campaign had suffered several internal shocks earlier in the cycle.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean looked like he was going to run the table in the Democratic contest throughout 2003. In Zogby Polls as late as December he was leading in Iowa by 7 points and in New Hampshire by 36 points. And Democrats were telling us that they preferred someone who opposed the war in Iraq and stood on principle two to one over someone who could defeat George W. Bush. But that changed after the first of the year in 2004 as Iowan Democrats were making clear that they preferred a winner in the general election. My polls for Reuters and NBC News showed Dean losing a point a day while Massachusetts Senator JOhn Kerry gained and surpassed Dean to win decisively.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama's victory in Iowa in 2008 established his credentials as the man to beat, but New York Senator Hillary Clinton's decisive victory in New Hampshire five days later made her the woman to beat. Both victories were surprises.

And in 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had to endure questions about his acceptability to conservatives and viability as a candidate for an entire year. The GOP seemed to have monthly frontrunners in 2011 until Romney went on to a declared election night "victory" in Iowa -- then a very close second place to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum, who had not been one of 2011 frontrunners lasted in the race longer than any other challenger. Romney's showing was good enough to set the table for a solid victory in New Hampshire and the nomination.

Will there be any surprises in 2016? I believe there could be. That's my next post.