MTV News has landed in the Hawkeye State for the Iowa caucus, the first primary in the Republican presidential nomination contest. Before voters gather to cast their ballots on Tuesday night, we'll hit the streets to talk to first-time campaign volunteers and young voters who will help shape the rest of the primary season by lifting one of the major candidates to the top of the heap, and likely sending a few home in disappointment. Helping us make sense of it all will be Andrew Jenks, star of the MTV documentary series "World of Jenks."
As Iowans prepare to take part in the unique caucus process, we'll ask them why they're supporting their candidates, how it feels to have the nation's eyes on them, what issues they're concerned about and how they feel about the results.
» Wednesday, 9:55 a.m.: Iowa Caucus Near-Tie Energizes Romney, Santorum Supporters
With Romney coming out on top by a grand total of eight votes, his camp couldn't exactly shout from the rooftops, but, well, a win is a win in the closest race in Iowa caucus history.
It all comes down to this. Tonight Iowans will cast their votes for the Republican candidate of choice. Who will the barrage of ads, baby kissing and stumping pay off for? Will it be the business-like Mitt Romney, the surging Ron Paul, the dark horse Rick Santorum, the veteran politico Newt Gingrich or trailing Michele Bachmann?
MTV News is on the ground in Iowa and will be covering the caucus and live-blogging all the details.
» Tuesday, 7:59 p.m.: Obama Supporters Tuning Out Iowa Caucus Noise
Anywhere you went in Iowa over the past few weeks, the talk was likely to be focused on Tuesday night's (January 3) Iowa caucus. But, because President Obama is an incumbent facing no Democratic challenger, the nation's attention has been on the in-fighting among the Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination.
Obama was not far from their lips, though, as a landslide of attack ads on the airwaves here hammered the president on his policies, while questioning his dedication to the American ideal and just about anything else that would inspire Republican voters to come out and help decide the first-in-the-nation primary event.
» Watch related video: Obama Supporters Organizing For November Elections
Almost every candidate in the Republican presidential field has gotten a chance to be the frontrunner so far. But in the days leading up to Tuesday night's (January 3) all-important first contest, the Iowa caucus, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is definitely peaking at just the right time.
The staunchly conservative family-values candidate, who was polling in the single digits for much of last year, has surged in the past few weeks and is now a close third behind Rep. Ron Paul and leading candidate Mitt Romney. At a campaign rally Tuesday morning at a "Rock the Caucus" event in the gymnasium of Valley High School in West Des Moines, his staffers told MTV News they were feeling bullish about his prospects.
» Watch related video: Rick Santorum's Iowa Caucus Staffers Feeling Bullish
I spoke with one twentysomething and asked, "You going to vote tomorrow night?" He laughed: "There's a repeat of 'Glee' on." Wow, really? A "Glee" rerun trumps participating in one of the truly unique democratic processes our country offers?
But I am no glass-half-empty guy — I hope today, more than anything, isn't just a day when I get to see what it looks like when someone my age goes into a caucus for the first time. When they lock the doors at 7 p.m., not a minute later. When I follow a decided voter as he/she finds out who wins. Or when I follow an undecided voter as they hear each person make a case for their candidate and then make a final decision before the caucuses close at 9 p.m.
» Watch related video: Andrew Jenks Reflects On Young Voters' Priorities
How important is the youth vote to the Republican party? So important that on Tuesday morning (January 3), two of the leading candidates in tonight's crucial Iowa caucus took time out from their vacuum-packed schedules to address a throng of pumped-up teens at a "Rock the Caucus" event in the gymnasium of Valley High School in West Des Moines.
Although Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is polling in the single digits and widely expected to have a poor showing at the first-in-the-nation caucus, GOP contenders Ron Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum were close to neck-and-neck for the second-place spot in final polling on Monday. As MTV News found as we headed to Iowa for our Power of 12 campaign, all three caught the attention of voters who are eager to step up for their man/woman.
» Tuesday, 5:05 p.m.: Iowa Caucus Coverage Earns 'Respect' From Twitter Hater
Andrew Jenks turns a Twitter war into a civil political dialogue.
"If young people can change anything about politics, it's the way we speak to each other. Whenever I write about politics, I mostly get civil tweets from those that agree and disagree. But sometimes I don't."
» Tuesday, 4:40 p.m.: Ron Paul Supporters Boost Kelly Clarkson's Album Sales
Even as he continues to battle for votes in the final hours of the Iowa caucus, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is already a front-runner in another contest: the quest for celebrity endorsements.
Yes, in recent days, Paul has surged to the forefront of high-profile support, picking up the backing of singers Kelly Clarkson and Michelle Branch (both of whom subsequently felt the wrath of Paul's detractors, though, hey, Clarkson may have gotten a sales bump out of it). But they're just the latest in a list of seemingly disparate stars who have endorsed the candidate.
» Watch related video: Ron Paul Supporters Explain Why He Appeals To Them
'We need someone who's really going to be able to run against [President Obama],' 20-year-old Iowa caucus voter Emily Clemons tells MTV News.
» Watch related video: Iowa Caucus: Young Voter Tells MTV News Mitt Romney 'Can Win'
Try being a married couple in your early twenties and finding out your spouse is voting for a different presidential candidate than you. When I walked into the OverTime sports bar Monday morning (January 2) at 10 a.m. (only in Iowa, right?) to talk politics, I found myself in the middle of this sticky situation.
Although Jeremy (The Husband) is leaning Newt, Sara (The Wife) isn't so sure. Is divorce just over the horizon? Of course not.
But it was interesting to hear that Jeremy, who is the bigger political junkie, wasn't planning to force his choice down his wife's throat. Instead, he is treading lightly, trying to give her all the information he has without resorting to the relationship equivalent of a negative "do-this-or-something-bad-will-happen-to-your-kids" campaign ad.
As I sat in the middle of these charming, well-educated, but, yes, unemployed twosome, I was reminded how impressionable young people are. And when it comes to voting, a lot of us have friends and family that clearly influence our decisions. I am sure most of us know whom are parents are voting for — and we shouldn't dismiss how much of a difference that makes.
I am glad Sara has the mindset to listen to her husband, but also form her own opinion.
And luckily, I think this marriage will last far beyond tomorrow's caucus. I'll check in four years from now. — Andrew Jenks
» Monday, 8:00 p.m: For Undecided Iowa Caucus Voters, It's About Jobs
'I want somebody who can do more than just speak the rhetoric,' Iowan tells MTV News, as poll finds 41 percent still selecting a candidate
» Watch related video:Undecided Voters In Iowa Explore The Issues
Every time I looked up at the TV, there they were again, like I was stuck in some kind of conservative-values "Groundhog Day" tape loop. I can only imagine what it must feel like for Iowans who just want to watch "Jeopardy!" or the evening news in peace.
Then, as I walked down the hall towards the complimentary hotel breakfast bar, I passed a man in a Mitt Romney shirt. A hotel maid looked at him and said, "Go Mitt!" They talked about how the weather was looking tomorrow and if it would hurt the former Massachusetts governor's turnout. As I sat down with some OJ and a donut, I overheard a local news team strategizing how they were going to interview former Senator Rick Santorum later that day.
I hadn't yet walked 150 yards, and before I left the hotel this morning at 9 a.m., I realized this is it: I will be living and breathing politics for the next two days. — Andrew Jenks
A trio of young voters explained to MTV News why they're determined to help Rep. Ron Paul win the crucial Iowa caucus on Tuesday night.
» Watch related video:Ron Paul Supporters Explain Why He Appeals To Them
» Sunday, 9 am: In Iowa Caucus, Young Voters Could Be Crucial
When it comes to presidential politics, Iowa is #1 in line, no matter what. Though it only serves up around 1 percent of the national delegates in presidential contests, pundits and political junkies have looked to the Hawkeye State for more than 40 years for an early indication of who will represent the party in the race for the White House.
Check back here, around the clock, for constantly updated coverage on the caucus and and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the presidential election season.