Posted at 06:15 PM ET, 01/03/2012

Iowa caucus 2012: candidates, schedule and how it works

The Iowa caucuses have arrived! Here are the details you will need to follow the first nominating contest of the 2012 election.

PostPolitics will cover all the caucus-day campaign activity in Election 2012 starting at 1 p.m. ET and the Fix will host a live chat beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

How do the caucuses work?

Watch as Dan Balz explains:

The Iowa caucuses are the first step in a process to determine how many delegates each candidate will get from the state to the Republican National Convention in August.

The caucuses, which are meetings where Republican activists discuss their choices in addition to voting on them, will take place in 1,774 precincts throughout Iowa. A representative for each candidate is allowed to give a speech. Then attendees, who must be registered Republicans (Democrats and Independents can change their registration on-site), vote by secret ballot.

The results of each contest are tallied by the Iowa Republican Party and reported to the media.

The Fix’s Rachel Weiner wrote an explainer in December on the history of the caucuses, why Iowa votes first and how reliable they are at predicting the nominees. Read it here.

What is the schedule?

The caucuses begin at 8 p.m. ET. We will update PostPolitics.com with results as soon as they are available. The final results are expected to be in by 10:30 p.m. ET.

Who are the candidates vying for the delegates?

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum were the at the top of the pack in the Des Moines Register poll released Saturday night.

The other major candidates are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann . Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has skipped campaigning in Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, which holds its primary Jan. 10.

How do I follow the caucuses on social media?

The official hashtag for the caucuses is #IACaucus.

Follow all the PostPolitics campaign team using this Twitter list, or use this Fix list of the best Iowa political tweeters.

And, starting today, you can track Twitter and media mentions of all the major candidates using The Washington Post’s new @MentionMachine app. Click on the toolbar below or find out more about it here.

More on PostPolitics.com

GOP candidates spread out across Iowa

She the People’s predictions for Iowa

Ron Paul phenomenon — in a chart

By  |  06:15 PM ET, 01/03/2012

 
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