There's been a lot of chatter about Iowa's near-irrelevance in the presidential nominating process.
First, Iowans don't have a great track record. They picked Mike Huckabee over John McCain in 2004, Bob Dole over George H.W. Bush in 1988, and George H.W. Bush over Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Second, the state is 91% white, while the nation is only 64% white. (Iowa is less than 4% Hispanic, though Hispanics make up more than 16% of the U.S. population.)
So, who cares about the caucuses?
Not Jon Huntsman, certainly, who has been crisscrossing New Hampshire, but has almost completely dismissed Iowa.
But here's why you should care: Iowa acts as a kind of barometer for the base. After three years of Obama - who, himself, rose to prominence on the shoulders of Iowa's hard-core Democrats - how hungry are Republicans to win?
Only hunger will explain an embrace of Mitt Romney who - like John Kerry before him - is widely perceived as a palatable candidate (Howard Dean, by contrast, was seen as too liberal).
Many in Iowa are skeptical of Romney's Massachusetts record - and rightly so, since he has changed many of his views since he was elected to the Governorship less than a decade ago. But caucus-goers also worry about casting their lots with Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann, who truly - and consistently - reflect conservative views.
Better go with the moderate, they reason (even if he has waffled a couple of times), than shoot for the moon and fail.
Tonight, Iowa takes the temperature of the base - and gauges its anti-Obama fervor.
Of course, picking the more-mainstream candidate didn't exactly work out for Kerry supporters in 2004. And the Obama team is certainly studying the famous flip-flop line of attack.
Even as Romney supporters cast votes for him tonight, you can bet that the President's campaign deputies are trying to figure out whether Mitt Romney windsurfs.
The author is solely responsible for the content.