DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Tens of thousands of Republican voters will travel next Tuesday through a chilly Midwestern night to the warmth of a local church or gymnasium. And there, they will select candidates in caucus meetings, the first voting of the 2012 presidential campaign.
These Midwestern, mostly white voters hardly resemble America as a whole, and their voting system puzzles most people. Yet Iowa holds substantial sway over how the nation chooses the president.
The caucuses have served as a launching pad to the nomination, and often to the White House, for the past 40 years.
For the GOP, the caucuses are simply a straw poll, meaning the results are not binding. Republicans pick convention delegates at county and district conventions later in the year.
Democrat Barack Obama is unopposed this year.
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