DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa caucuses are small local meetings where neighbors and strangers stand up to show their support for a particular candidate and to persuade others to join them. 

They're also the first opportunity for Democrats to express their preferences in what’s been a long and tumultuous primary. 

Iowa's 41 pledged national delegates are awarded based on the results. 

The winner of the caucuses may also get a boost in fundraising, media attention and momentum in the following primaries. 

A bad performance could also doom a candidate. 

Other tidbits and facts about the Iowa caucuses:

What does the word "caucus mean?"
The belief is that the word derives from the Algonquian native family of languages. The word caucus roughly translates to, "encourage, advise or urge." The word can also mean "give counsel, talk to and incite to action."

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition is "a closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to the same political party or faction usually to select candidates or to decide on policy."

Iowa got its "first-in-the-nation" placement by accident
In 1972, Democrats moved their Iowa caucus earlier on the political calendar than the New Hampshire primary because of scheduling issues and Iowa's long nominating process.  

Rules for the selection of delegates complicated things after a hectic 1968 Democratic Convention. Afterward, Democratic national party leaders formed a commission to improve the nomination process so voters would have a direct say as to who would be the nominee, according to History.com

And because Iowa has a long nominating process, the Democratic Party of Iowa had to change the timing for the caucus that year. It was, apparently, simply a scheduling issue.

Iowans take great pride in being first in the presidential primary cycle and consider this to be a great honor. 

The Iowa caucuses are more about gaining momentum than predicting a nominee
Did you know that every president since Jimmy Carter has been in the top three at the Iowa caucuses? Yes, it's true. Well, save for when Tom Harkin of Iowa ran back in 1992. But, this is all to guide you to my point, that the Iowa caucuses are more of a mechanism to sort of speed the race up. It's a way to gain momentum, rather than a solid predictor of who is going to be the nominee for each party, and go on to win the presidency. 

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