The caucuses, which convene tonight, are the first major contest in the Republican presidential campaign.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a longtime favorite among Iowa Republicans, is expected to win. But whether that gives the Kansan's campaign a big boost will depend partly on his margin of victory. Publishing heir Steve Forbes surged here on the strength of his massive ad campaign, but he may have peaked. His lack of a state organization casts doubts on whether he can get out his vote. Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, commentator Patrick J. Buchanan and Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas are vying for a place among the top three finishers.
Statewide Republican registration grew impressively over the last decade, changing the party's complexion. Much of the rise was due to younger professionals drawn to Iowa by job opportunities and to social conservatives who have become more politically involved. The state's 1.7 million registered voters are evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Des Moines suburbs: Younger, middle-class voters are concentrated here; Forbes' showing may depend on whether they attend their caucuses.
Sioux County: With eight times more Republicans than Democrats, this is a conservative stronghold where Gramm and Buchanan hope to do well.
Dubuque: Tough anti-abortion stances have strong appeal for this area's largely Roman Catholic voters.
Adair County: Voters in rural areas such as this are older and have traditionally backed Dole.
Median family income
1992 presidential vote
Gov. Terry Branstad (R)
Sen. Charles Grassley (R)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D)
House delegation: 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats
Violent crimes per 100,000 population
DELEGATES SO FAR
Needed to Nominate: 996
At Stake Today: 25
1. Each of the 2,142 caucuses is called to order at 7 p.m. (5 p.m. PST). People who wish to participate can register as Republicans at the door. Caucus chairs and secretaries are elected.
2. Representatives of the presidential candidates may speak for one to two minutes. Other campaign representatives are permitted to attend and monitor the ballot process.
3. Balloting begins. The vote at GOP caucuses is done by straw poll, usually in secret.
4. Caucus chairs and precinct officials count ballots and notify the Voter News Service, an independent tallying group, of the results.
5. Caucus members proceed with local concerns, such as electing precinct committee members. They may also discuss issues relevant to the state party platform.
BY THE NUMBERS
Success in the Iowa caucuses is not necessarily a sure path to the presidential nomination, as some past Republican contests illustrate.
1980 1988 1996 Iowa winner: George Bush Bob Dole ? Eventual nominee: Ronald Reagan George Bush ? Iowa GOP registration: 466,305 482,675 583,641 Caucus turnout: 106,051 108,805 130,000 (projected)
Researched by ROB CIOE and MALOY MOORE / Los Angeles Times
Source: U.S. Census, Claritas Inc., various media sources