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For 40 years, Iowa's precinct caucuses have begun the presidential nomination process
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ' Since the 1840s, political activists in Iowa have gathered on dark winter nights to take care of party business. Only for the past 40 years has anyone outside the state taken notice of these Iowa caucuses.
Everything changed in 1972 when Democrats moved their meeting to January, making Iowa's presidential preference vote the first in the nation. Candidate George McGovern gave Iowa extra attention, then finished a surprising second and went on to win his party's nomination.
Republicans moved up their caucus in 1976, and candidates have paid rabid attention to Iowa ever since.
White House hopefuls believe that by winning the caucuses ' or simply beating expectations ' they'll gain a burst of publicity that will help fundraising and improve their chances in New Hampshire and other early-voting states.