Looking at you, Iowa

Thanks to my sister for this perfect pair of underwear found in a Des Moines shop.

Today’s the day all us political nerds have been waiting for.

IOWA!

But why does Iowa matter? Obviously you know that every four years, our nation comes together to pick a new president. Before the general election in November, there is a primary season to narrow down the field of candidates running for office. And in this sequence of events, Iowa goes first.

But why do they get to vote first?  Many will say Iowans are representative of the “average” American voter. The state is also a great place to meet these “average” voters, because Iowa is made up of smaller towns and smaller metro areas. This makes it much easier for a candidate to sit down and have a cup of coffee with voters, than in some place like Los Angeles. As written in a WaPo article:

Iowa may not be perfectly representative [of the United States], but no one state is…Combined, the first four carve-out states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — do a pretty good job of representing the constituencies and issues that drive American politics.

How does it work? Unlike most states, Iowa maintains a caucus system for the primary cycle. A caucus is where Iowa citizens get to vote for their candidate, but they do it a bit differently. Representatives from each campaign gather in smaller spaces to reach voters. They work to sway those who are undecided to come to support their candidate. Republicans hold a secret ballot at the end of the caucus. Democrats are a bit more public. Voters physically break into groups (going to separate corners of the room, if that’s an easier visual). If a candidate doesn’t visibly have at least 15% of the vote, that candidate is eliminated and supporters have to get behind another candidate. This happens in nearly 1,700 locations around Iowa.

As luck would have it, my sister, Lauren, goes to school in the heart of all of this. She’s a sophomore at Iowa State University, majoring in Environmental Science and Global Resource Systems. After much hounding (and because she loves me in all my nerdiness), she decided to caucus. I’m hoping she’ll let me interview her about this experience, because I will never live in Iowa to experience this for myself. So maybe more later on this…

As for a final overview, this is what we can expect for the current and future election season process. New Hampshire votes next Tuesday, February 9, as the first state to hold a primary. Then from here on out:

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(Much thanks to theSkimm for this great chart).

Candidates remaining:

(D): Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley

(R): Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum.

May the best man (or woman) win! Happy Caucusing, Iowa!

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