why do they have the iowa caucus

Instead, hardy Iowans must attend public meetings in school gyms, arts centers, churches, libraries, restaurants and even fire stations in 1,681 precincts to vote for a candidate. The process is much longer -- it can take several hours -- and more convoluted than a primary ballot.

So we've provided a guide to understanding how the Iowa voting ritual works.
Iowa's electoral prominence started as a fluke. In the late 1960s, the Iowa Democratic Party ruled that at least 30 days had to pass between the caucus and the district conventions (for which the caucuses select delegates), plus another 30 between the district conventions and the state convention (where Iowa's delegates are officially selected).

The purpose of the ruling was to allow enough time to work out convention details, like the printing of pamphlets and the staffing of sites.

The 1972 Democratic state convention was scheduled for May 20, which meant the latest the caucus could be held was Jan. 24.

It thus supplanted New Hampshire as the first contest on the road to the White House, a distinction the Granite State had held since 1920. George McGovern took advantage of this peculiarity by campaigning hard in the state.

His surprisingly strong showing thereвhe came in second to Edmund Muskieвcreated a fair amount of media buzz and helped propel him toward the Democratic nomination.