As the first state in the nation to vote for Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, the question of how Iowa voters will cast their ballots draws an enormous amount of attention in a long, state-by-state process that stretches from this evening until June. But just why does being first make Iowa's caucus so important?
According to the Christian Post, Iowa's Feb. 1 caucus, along with New Hampshire's Feb. 9 primary, "have traditionally served as early filters to winnow out the losers and elevate the top contenders for later contests."
But don't give Iowa's influence too much credit. When it comes to helping select the candidate who eventually becomes the Republican nominee after the other 49 states have cast their vote, Iowa's choice hasn't become the party's choice in the past two presidential election cycles. In 2012, Iowa picked Rick Santorum, and in 2008, Mike Huckabee.
Yet even if Iowa's choice tonight does not eventually become the party nominee, whoever gets the most support in the state will surely get a boost in confidence.
Here are a couple more things to note about the caucuses tonight, which begin at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time:
1. The Republican caucus involves caucus goers secretly casting their ballot while candidate representatives attempt to gin up last-minute support.
2. The Democratic caucus involves caucus goers publicly gathering in different groups around the venue based on their candidate preference. Any candidate who does not garner 15 percent of the caucus goers must release all of them to choose a more viable candidate, giving candidate representatives another last-minute chance to gin-up support.
What is the difference between a primary and a caucus?
Primary: Voters participate in electing a party nominee by voting in numerous locations across their voting district. Primaries can have varying degrees of openness depending on if they allow registered voters from other parties to participate.
Caucus: Voters gather in larger, more centralized locations to participate in a lengthier selection process that also involves candidates' representatives vying for support.
Please join us in praying for the voting process tonight, that it may go smoothly and that voters will cast their ballots wisely.