Watch live results and coverage of the 2020 Iowa caucuses on NBC News NOW, as Democratic presidential candidates compete in the first nominating contest of the 2020 election.
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They’re essentially small local meetings where neighbors and strangers stand up to show their support for a particular candidate, and to persuade others to join them. Iowa’s 41 national delegates are up for grabs, but the real stakes for the candidates are all about momentum.
The caucuses are the first opportunity for Democrats to express their preferences in what’s been a long and tumultuous primary. They set the tone for the monthlong sprint through the early primary states, after which the field of candidates is typically culled. The winner usually receives a boost in media attention and fundraising that can propel them through subsequent contests. An unexpectedly bad performance, meanwhile, can hobble a candidate.
The caucuses don’t always pick the eventual nominee, but for Democrats they’ve been more predictive — every winner since 2000 has gone on to become the Democratic nominee. And historically, they’ve been known to catapult underdog candidates’ campaigns to prominence — like they did with Barack Obama in 2008, or Jimmy Carter in 1976.