Cover Story: Iowa Caucus Importance

DAVIDSON, NC (WBTV) - The Iowa caucus were held Tuesday night.  Voters picked from a handful of Republican candidates.

And what happens in Iowa could have an impact on elections here in the Carolinas.

Three days into the New Year and the first votes of 2012 are being cast.

What happens across chilly Iowa could very well determine one of the two people you'll get to vote for ten months from now in November.

The NFL's not the only game in playoffs.  It's time for the political playoffs!

Rick Perry on Monday.

"The only scoreboard that matters is [Tuesday].  And it's the scoreboard that the caucuses meet and we will the big Iowa caucus."

"Ron Paul.. Ron Paul."

Ron Paul on Tuesday.  One of his goals, "shrinking the size of the federal government," he said.

It's been the "invisible primary" up to this point with debates and polls.  Now it's down to business.

"This has been a very unusual cycle for the Republicans.. we just don't see it being this crazy."

Dr. Josh Putnam, a professor at Davidson College and author of the blog Frontloading HQ (http://frontloading.blogspot.com) for which he's garnered national media attention, says typically the Republican Party's lined up behind someone it hasn't yet.

Leading up to Iowa a number of faces took their turn at one time or another in the spotlight.

Now it's Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum in the lead.  If history is any guide Iowa will sort out the field of six into the top three.

"The writing's going to be on the wall for folks that finish out of that top three. They may not immediately drop out but once we get through next week and looking forward to South Carolina even.. it's going to be increasingly difficult for folks like that to stick around," said Putnam.

With Iowa on Tuesday, the nation's first primary New Hampshire next week, and the first southern primary in South Carolina on the 21st by the time they come to our area we could have a clear-front runner by then.

So what happened Tuesday night?

About a fifth of the registered Iowa Republicans gathered in some 800 locations at schools, community centers, churches and other public venues.

They listened to a representative from each of the 6 presidential candidates speak for about five minutes.

And then cast a vote on a paper ballot.

They'll count the votes on site and relay that to Iowa Republican Party H.Q. in Des Moines.

"If Mitt Romney wins tonight and follows up with a win next week it's gonna be tough to de-rail the Romney train."

In about a week all the focus will shift to South Carolina.

Why is it that Iowa gets to play such a major role?

One is history Iowa's been holding a caucus since the 1840s.  And it's a relatively small state for the candidates to crisscross and campaign in.

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