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On November 6th, 2012, Americans will decide whether to re-elect President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for another four-year term or, bring in a totally new team. However, before they reach that pivotal moment, the candidates from each party have to overcome a large number of obstacles - The first of which, is the Iowa caucus that took place on January 3rd, 2012.
While the votes cast by the Iowans at this stage are not indicative of who the final candidate for each party will be, the event is considered one of the most important ones during an election year. That's because it is the first one and often considered to be a test of whether the candidates have been successful in getting their message across to the American people.
Also, if past results are any indication, Iowans have traditionally been quite good at narrowing down the final representatives from each party. Since the state held its first caucus in 1972, no candidate who has finished worse than third in Iowa, has ever gone on to win a presidential nomination. If there is any truth to this, based on this year's results, on November 6th, US voters will be deciding between President Obama and one of three hopefuls - Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul.
While the residents of Iowa chalk it down to their election savvy, skeptics argue that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, triggered by the media hoopla that surrounds the event. They maintain that if a candidate that had previously been expected to do poorly has a decent showing in Iowa, he/she gets so much good press, that it helps elevate their status in the eyes of the American public. Conversely, one with a poor showing, as was the case with Republican hopeful Michele Bachmann, gets bad or no press at all, forcing him/her to quit the Presidential race altogether.
Whatever the reality, the fact is that the Iowa caucus remains an important indicator of the US presidential elections, second only to Super Tuesday, which will take place on March 6th, 2012 - So stay tuned.
Resources: howstuffworks, wikipedia.org