Des Moines, IA (CNSNews.com) - Months, and in the case of some candidates, years of campaigning in Iowa comes to a close tonight, the night of the long awaited precinct caucuses.
Despite the media attention, the caucuses will only draw an estimated 1 in 10 Iowa voters. About 200,000 residents of this state will attend their neighborhood caucuses and endorse a presidential candidate. The results will begin to trickle in after 9 o'clock (CDT).
Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush are expected to do well, judging from advance polling data. The rest of the field will be hoping for a decent finish and a little momentum to carry them through to the New Hampshire Primary.
Critics often wonder about the impact of the Iowa Caucuses, but Iowa politicos maintain the caucuses as valuable because they "winnow the field," of candidates.
Long time Caucus watcher, Hugh Winebrenner of Drake University in Des Moines expects a bit of narrowing to occur after tonight.
He expects Utah Senator Orrin Hatch to bail out of the Republican race first. He got into the race late, spent little time and money here, and failed to organize much support. Winebrenner says look for Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer to leave the race shortly after New Hampshire. He expects Steve Forbes to stay in for a while, he has the financial means to stick around.
Arizona Senator John McCain has not campaigned in Iowa, focusing instead on New Hampshire. He is not expected to pull in many votes tonight.
Democratic Senator Bill Bradley's campaign has been losing a bit a steam, judging from polls that show his support slipping. Winebrenner expects Gore to live up to the polls which give him a strong lead over Bradley in Iowa. He also says Gore's campaign is highly organized and has the resources to pose a formidable threat to any Republican challenger.
The candidates have been criss-crossing Iowa, hoping to inspire supporters to attend the Caucuses. The Republican candidates participated in a program on WHO-AM radio, except John McCain, to showcase their positions and candidacies.
The Democratic candidates, Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore had committed to be on the program, both however were "no-shows."
The weather may or may not impact turn-out, it's going to be cold with temperatures ranging from zero to the low teens. It remains to be seen if Iowans will bundle-up and head to their caucus site, or stay home and wait for the results.
Sue Danielson is a reporter for WHO-AM radio in Iowa.