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Iowa Kicks off Presidential Race in Hard-fought Caucuses

February 1, 2016

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, IowaJim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

After three years of campaigning, countless polls, and endless speculation and prognostication, the first voters will begin to make their true preferences known Monday night for who they want to succeed President Obama in the White House.

Iowans will head to their caucus locations beginning at 6:30 p.m. centra

l time, with the doors shutting and the business of beginning to select the next president starting at 7 p.m. The historic proceedings only involve a small fraction of the state’s registered voters, but play an outsized role in the race for the presidency, helping to narrow the field of candidates. All eyes will be on the number of attendees in both parties, with strong turnout portending well for insurgent candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who are betting on an expanded electorate. Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, both front-runners just weeks ago, are betting their more committed caucus-goers and sophisticated ground games will lead them to victory.

Republicans use a secret ballot, and report their results in raw votes, which will be used to proportionally divide up the binding 30 delegates (of 2,472 total) that Iowa sends to the Republican National Convention. Candidates must receive at least 3.33% of the vote to secure a single delegate, and a close finish could leave two or multiple candidates tied for the overall delegate lead.

Democrats, on the other hand, caucus with their feet, physically moving to different corners of the room. Candidates must achieve viability (15% in most of Iowa’s 1,681 precincts, but as high as 25%) in order to secure a delegate. But in some cases, viable candidates will send their supporters to bolster underperforming candidates in order to minimize the leader’s delegate lead. Democratic results will be in the form of precinct delegates, which move through the county and district conventions to select national delegates.

Results should begin filtering in around 8 p.m. central time.

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