DES MOINES, IOWA — Winning the Iowa caucus is not a guaranteed stepping stone to your party's presidential nomination, but it's not a bad start.
"I've pretty much decided to vote for Mitt Romney," Emily Clemons, a 20-year-old clerk at Walgreens who recently moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, told MTV News on Monday night. "I'm kind of new to politics ... [but] I think it's really important as an American citizen to vote and to know what's going on."
Read what undecided voters are feeling in the lead-up to the caucus.
Standing inside the Iowa Hall of Pride in downtown Des Moines, Clemons said there were very simple reasons why she was planning to cast her vote with the former Massachusetts governor, who was enjoying a slim lead over challenger Rep. Ron Paul going into Tuesday night's (January 3) pivotal first voting contest of the 2012 presidential election season.
"There's a lot of candidates out there who seem really good, but we need someone who's really going to be able to run against [President Obama]," she said of Romney, who has steadily held a lead (or regained it at points) over his various challengers in national polls for much of the year. "I think that he might actually have a chance. The other thing that's important to me is that Mitt Romney believes in this country. He believes in what the country represented in the beginning and I believe we need to bring that back."
She said she knows no president is infallible, but she appreciates Romney's emphasis on family values and feels that she's picked a winner in her first time as a caucus voter.
"I just feel confident and I feel like I really am trying to help my country," she explained, acknowledging that Romney has not always garnered the most press coverage despite his near-steady front-runner status. "He's still on that steady pace because maybe that's who he is. I kind of like that ... he's always the same person and he really is out there and tells you what needs to be done."
An avowed patriot since childhood, Clemons said it was her recent move to West Des Moines and the influence of her many friends caught up in the political game that drew her into supporting Romney. "It was a huge eye-opener for me at the time, and in this next year I'm going to be watching and learning more about it and be more knowledgeable about it," she said.
Clemons recently attended her first campaign event — a Romney appearance at a local Hy-Vee grocery store that included briefly buzzed-about potential GOP contender New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — which she described as very moving and powerful.
"When I went to the rally and got to see him in person ... that inspired me and made me feel a little bit more connected and know what he's all about," she said.
MTV is on the scene in Iowa! Head to Iowa.MTV.com for all our Iowa caucus coverage, and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the presidential election season to follow Andrew Jenks on the campaign trail.