The long and sometimes arcane ritual of electing the next U.S. president begins on Monday in more than 1,100 schools, churches and libraries across Iowa, a state that wields political influence far greater than its small size.
After more than a year of up-close and personal evaluation of the candidates, Iowans will gather with their neighbors on what promises to be a cold wintry night to kick off the state-by-state process of picking the Republican and Democratic nominees for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
The starring opening-night role of the largely rural Midwestern state in the presidential drama, now four decades old, is a source of pride for Iowa voters, who spend months evaluating the candidates, looking them in the eye and asking questions.
“Iowans see it as a great privilege and a great gift. They take their role very seriously,” said Tom Henderson, chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, home to Iowa’s biggest city, Des Moines.
The caucuses will begin on Monday at 7 p.m. CST, and results are expected within two or three hours. Most gatherings will be in schools, community centers or other public locations, although at least two Republican caucuses will be in private homes and one Democratic caucus will be held at an equestrian center.
Turnout varies by community, with up to 1,000 people typically gathering in cities like Des Moines, while a few dozen or less may gather in more sparsely populated areas.
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