Happy Iowa Caucus Day.
They're expecting a higher 2012 turnout in Iowa than in 2008—maybe because it's anybody's ballgame. Here's a nice link to the Iowa Gazette Caucus 2012 page, where you can follow along as the day progresses. Polls should open around 7 p.m. our time and results flowing freely thereafter.
Here's an explanation of the process, courtesy of ABC News.
If you believe the pundits, it's a three-way race right now between Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are making their last-minute push, and Jon Huntsman has kind of stood on the sidelines for this one.
Here at home in Illinois, The Daily Herald reports that Republicans Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Robert Dold and Rep. Judy Biggert all have backed Romney. U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren, Joe Walsh and Peter Roskam are undecided. Our primary is March 20, in case you want to mark your calendar.
And if you listen to the Sunday-morning talk shows, the top three spots are the most important coming out of Iowa.
Why is the Iowa Caucus important? We're glad you asked. And you can find more answers at history.howstuffworks.com. The main answer is that it's first.
People who weren't considered contenders suddenly have a shot if they do well in Iowa. This time around, it seems to be a big deal for Santorum, who's gaining momentum at the end, and for Gingrich, who had a freefall from grace this week after a bunch of negative ads.
But it's not "as Iowa goes, so goes the nation." The caucus has what the Chicago Tribune calls a "spotty track record" for picking a winner, but it does often separate the wheat from the chaff.