It’s finally here. After several months of campaigning, hundreds of appearances by Republicans across the state, and dozens of polls, the Republican Party of Iowa will hold its caucus on the evening of Jan. 15.

The caucuses are the first national election of presidential hopefuls. The Hawkeye State’s GOP will choose between four major Republican candidates: former President Donald Trump, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

How Does the Caucus Work?

While the Iowa Caucuses date back to the 19th century, the modern form of the biennial event began in 1972.
Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have local party meetings across the state. The state of Iowa is not involved in the process.

Caucuses are meetings of neighbors to conduct the local business of their political parties. Iowa’s 1,765 precincts will convene a caucus at a set time on a set day ahead of the U.S. midterm and general elections. There are 728 caucus sites across the state.

The party meetings include deliberation on the party platform and other local business, then a presidential preference poll. Typically, before the poll, there are brief speeches made on behalf of the candidates by their so-called caucus captains. Sometimes, the candidates themselves will show up to speak.

In a primary election, secret ballots are cast all day and then tabulated by state election officials. At caucuses, ballots are cast and then counted immediately in full view of all at the caucus. The results are then reported to the state party.

The results of the presidential preference poll are used to assign delegates to each candidate. This plays a role in the nomination process at the party’s convention.

In 2024, the Republican Party of Iowa will hold an in-person caucus and very likely report its results by the end of the night.

For its part, the Iowa Democratic Party will have an in-person event on Jan. 15, too. However, that event will not include a presidential preference poll. Starting this year, the Democrats will vote via a presidential preference card that must be requested by Feb. 19 and then mailed to the party. The results will be announced on March 5, the same day as Super Tuesday.

When Does It Start?

The caucuses begin at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time. Some events will be over in less than an hour, while others will last for hours. The average time of the event is about 90 minutes.

When Will the Results Come In?

A typical caucus meeting includes a call to order, a prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the election of a caucus chair, and then the presidential preference poll. After the poll is taken, the votes are counted, other party business is carried out, and then the meeting adjourns.

The major parties record the votes both on paper and electronically. The caucus’s results are sent to the party headquarters immediately, and the paper results are delivered later.

The state party officials announce the final totals. Results will typically come out within a few hours.

Who Can Caucus?

According to the Republican Party of Iowa, to participate in its caucus, a voter must be a legal resident of Iowa and a registered Republican voter in the state. Iowans can register to vote as a Republican on caucus night.

Caucusgoers are asked to bring a valid form of ID and arrive early. A new voter must bring proof of address, too.

How Will the Weather Affect Caucus Night?

The evening of the caucuses is expected to be extremely cold. Iowa was hit with a series of winter storms the week before the event, which dropped more than eight inches of snow across the state.

Over the weekend, Iowans were advised to avoid traveling due to dangerous conditions caused by falling snow and snow drifting onto the roads. But the wind is breaking, meaning that roads will be clearer by caucus night.

The National Weather Service is predicting that most of Iowa will be below -10 degrees Fahrenheit on caucus night. On Friday, Mr. DeSantis told campaign volunteers at the Urbandale, Iowa, headquarters of his super political action committee Never Back Down Inc. that the weather will be a “major wildcard.”

Iowans deeply involved with the caucus told The Epoch Times that they do not expect a cold night to drive down attendance. Bitter, snowy winters are part of life in the upper Midwest. However, they acknowledged the possibility that some will stay home.

Veteran Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer of Selzer & Co. told the Des Moines Register she thinks Ms. Haley could see some of her voters opt out of the event due to lack of enthusiasm.

What Do the Polls Say?

Six Iowa polls were published by various organizations in the final week leading up to the Iowa Caucus. Every one of those polls determined that President Trump is in a commanding lead. Two of the polls placed Ms. Haley ahead of Mr. DeSantis by a slight margin. The remainder had Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis tied. Mr. Ramaswamy is in fourth place.

President Trump has told his supporters to vote like they are losing in the polls.

But some have reminded caucusgoers that voters ultimately determine the results of the Caucus, not the caucus pollsters.

Why Is It a Big Deal?

The Iowa Caucuses do not always determine who exactly will be the party’s nominee but they play a significant role in setting the agenda and eliminating non-viable candidates.

In the most recent caucus without an incumbent running, President Trump did not win. He finished second behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). However, his second-place finish established that the political newcomer could make a run for the White House.

This year, a slew of Republican candidates dropped out ahead of the caucus after they recognized that they could not win the nomination. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and former Vice President Mike Pence, among others, all suspended their campaigns ahead of the caucus night.

Iowa’s place as the first state to vote means it plays an outsized role in informing the following primaries.

The first Republican presidential primary vote will be held in New Hampshire on Jan. 23.

Lawrence Wilson and John Haughey contributed to this report.

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