On Jan. 3, Iowans will caucus at 1,774 precincts across the state, in the first contest of the 2012 presidential nominating process. Above, Iowans caucus in 2004 at St. John's United Methodist Church in Des Moines, precinct 87.
Credit Shaun Heasley / Getty Images
At 7 p.m. central time on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the first contest of the 2012 presidential nominating process takes place in Iowa.
As you've heard countless times, Iowans vote in caucuses, which are small political meetings held in 1,774 locations scattered around the state.
NPR political correspondent Don Gonyea has prepared this basic guide to next week's contest.
Former Democratic state legislator Ed Fallon, a vocal member of the Occupy movement, said activists should take part in the caucuses.
Credit Becky Lettenberger / NPR
In a cavernous Des Moines meeting hall just west of the state Capitol, progressive activist and writer John Nichols had a simple message for those involved in Iowa's iteration of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Learn to get cool with losing," Nichols told about 50 people who had come to hear advice from longtime activists, including veterans of the civil rights battle.
"Get comfortable that you absolutely will be told you can't succeed," he said, and with the notion of a long-term struggle "that may last beyond your lifetime."
Ron Paul spoke to a packed house at the Knapp Learning Center during his "Salute to the Military" event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday.
Credit Becky Lettenberger/NPR
A claim by Ron Paul's presidential campaign, and confirmed by the fact-check website PolitiFact, asserts that the Texas congressman has received more donations from active military personnel than the other GOP candidates combined.
That's intriguing, given that Paul is the only candidate calling for significant cuts in military (not defense, he says) funding, the closing of overseas bases, and the use of military force "very sparingly."
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney campaigning in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday (Dec. 29, 2011).
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With just one holiday weekend between now and Tuesday's Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa, there's another poll signalling that it could be a close battle at the top between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). And also once again, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is on the rise and showing up at No. 3.
GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann wrapped up her bus tour of Iowa's 99 counties Thursday. She's been on the road for most of the last two weeks in a final push to generate support before Tuesday's caucuses.