Just what is the Iowa caucus and what is all the fuss about?
It is the official beginning of the election of the next president of the United States. Although it may seem as if that process already started quite some time ago, as candidates have been campaigning in earnest since early last year.
But tonight at 7pm in the US (1am Tuesday morning here), the first votes in this election will actually be cast, and that is why Iowa has become the centre of the American political universe this week. Voters in the state of Iowa, in both the Republican and Democratic parties, will decide who they want to go on to represent them in the head-to-head general election on 8 November.
Why does it matter?
Mostly the Iowa caucus matters because it is first. There are said to be 'only three tickets out of Iowa' and what that means is, that generally, if a candidate doesn't finish first, second or third in his/her party here - this first chance the American people have to vote on the candidates - then money and attention flows away from them and it becomes very hard to get traction elsewhere to win the party's nomination. That's why Iowa counts....