Here at the Crystal Ball, we love history almost as much as current politics. The lesson of history is clear, as our quick-take chart shows: From 1976 to 2008, there has been a major surprise every time either in Iowa or New Hampshire. A back-of-the-pack candidate greatly exceeds expectations. Or the frontrunner stumbles. Or the field is scrambled in some other way.

First, take a look at Chart 1, which highlight the top finishers in the competitive Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries dating back to 1976.