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.
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."
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.
A young Mitt Romney supporter holds yard signs Thursday at a campaign event at J's Homestyle Cooking in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
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Another strong turnout this morning for Mitt Romney at a restaurant in Cedar Falls, though the small place wasn't quite as packed as yesterday's breakfast stop in Muscatine. Romney spent a lot of time shaking hands and posing for pictures with customers, supporters and restaurant staff, after he spoke for about 20 minutes. He usually takes a couple of questions from the crowd but did not today, preferring to spend more time than usual glad-handing.
Newt Gingrich speaks Wednesday at Southbridge Mall in Mason City, Iowa.
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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich started Thursday's Iowa campaigning with a stop in Sioux City at The Coffee Works. Only about a dozen customers were there, but he was questioned critically by one about his comments on reforming the federal judiciary.
Linda Santi told Gingrich she didn't appreciate him "politicizing" the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision that found unconstitutional a state law banning gay marriage. Santi said the decision was in accordance with the state constitution. Gingrich ended the conversation with: "We'll have to agree to disagree."