Iowa Caucus: How they do it and why they do it

The Iowa Caucus allows voters to have a very influential role in the nominating process. The only problem: Most Iowa voters take a pass.

“You're asking people to go to a school or a church or some other community center on a Tuesday night at 7 p.m., and you're there for 2 or 3 hours, so it's difficult,” said Republican strategist Brian McClung.

The difficulty is why the people who caucus tend to be the diehards -- the people on the extremes. That’s why both Democratic and Republican political strategists say the caucus system has its flaws.

“The candidates who are ultimately nominated through that process tend to be further to the right or further to the left than even the voters of those political parties,” McClung said.

“We have to find a way to get folks who are not the hardcore activists to show up and care for a candidate at the end of the day,” said Democratic strategist Darin Broton

“I think a traditional primary makes more sense in that you get a broader section of voters who come out,” said Republican strategist Ben Golnik.

But caucuses do have their positives.

“The caucus system does give you a great opportunity to engage with those who are engaged, and turn them into hardcore champions that will carry over to the fall elections,” Broton said.

In the end, the number of hardcore champions who show up to vote is usually just a fraction of all the registered voters in Iowa.

Republicans did change things to make their caucus much easier and simpler than the Democrats. Republicans cast a secret ballot after the speeches, while Democrats break into small groups.

Since 1980, on the Republican side only 2 of the 6 caucus winners have gone on to get the nomination. For the Democrats, Iowa has been a better predictor, with 5 of the last 7 to win Iowa eventually earning the nomination.