Iowa caucuses just around the corner

Members of Pottawattamie County Iowa Republican Party and others watch the fourth GOP debate at Rodeo Saloon & BBQ in November.

Though we’re in the thick of the campaign season, there’s more to come.

Presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle have stopped by southwest Iowa locations for more than a year. They’ll make a few more stops in the run-up to the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.

As of mid-December, the Republican field includes business magnate Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

The Democratic field features a three-way race between former First Lady, New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

President Barack Obama won the Democratic caucuses in 2008 and 2012. The eventual Democratic nominee for president – including incumbents – has won the caucus every year since 1992, when former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin won with 76 percent of the vote.

On the Republican side, the past two winners – Huckabee in 2008 and Santorum in 2012 – have failed to win the party’s bid. Before that, four straight winners were the nominee.

For a comprehensive look at the history and importance of the caucuses, the Iowa Secretary of State office has released a seven-step “Caucus 101.” Approved by the state Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the Iowa Council for Social Studies, the curriculum can be downloaded at www.caucus101.com.

The curriculum covers the history of the caucuses and Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, the role of political parties, the media’s role in reporting elections, the role of special interest groups, the differences between the Democratic and Republican caucuses, a mock caucus and the effect of the Iowa caucuses.

After Iowa comes the New Hampshire primary for both parties on Feb. 9. The Nevada Democratic caucuses and South Carolina Republican primary are scheduled for Feb. 20, while Nevada Republicans will caucus on Feb. 23. The South Carolina Democratic primary is on Feb. 27.

March 1 is “Super Tuesday,” with primaries and caucuses for both parties in a number of states: Alabama, Alaska (Republican only), Arkansas, Colorado (caucuses), Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota (caucuses), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

When the primaries and caucuses are done, the winner from each party will enter the general election in November 2016. The winner will replace Obama, who has served two terms as president. The former Illinois senator’s second term runs through January 2017.

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