Only registered Republicans may participate, but with an ID that shows Iowa residency and age, voters can register at door, allowing for crossover participation. Democrats are known to have switched sides, if only for a night, to caucus with Republicans. And vice versa. And it’s legal.
The Democrats have a convoluted caucus process that involves good old-fashioned arm-twisting and can run into the wee hours of the night. It won't this year because Obama has no challenger. The Republican Caucuses, however, are a hybrid: part poll and part GOP meeting. Designated supporters of each candidate are allowed to campaign vigorously, making a speech on why their candidates deserve to win that evening’s votes. This is to convince the fence sitters to go with their candidate or to win over someone who is torn between two candidates.
Then Iowans vote by secret ballot. They are given blank sheets of paper with no candidate names on them. They write down their choice and the GOP at each precinct tabulates the results as they are phoned in. The results are then released to the media.
Mitt Romney seems pretty confident.
Newt says "I don't think I'm going to win," and then says it was a "compound sentence structure" that the media just didn't get. I've been teaching English for almost 20 years and I'm not aware that "I don't think I'm going to win" is a compound sentence, but hey, Newt is the intellectual. Not me.
Michele Bachmann won "the coffee bean caucus" but Sarah Palin says it's not her time.
Rick Perry is still hammering Santorum and is looking at this think like a long distance race. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is with Perry tonight and says:
“It is time for us now to take all of this excitement and energy and turn it into real work,” Jindal said. “It is time for us to get our neighbors, friends, family, everybody we know out and make sure that we help to elect Rick Perry as the next president of these United States of America.”The Duggar family has joined the Santorum camp and the media is thick around the candidate.
Ron Paul is oozing confidence .
All in all I'd say there's a lot of nervous energy in Iowa tonight.
Stay with SIGIS tomorrow for caucus coverage and up to the minute reports.