Iowans vote with their kernels at the State Fair. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

What makes Iowa's caucuses unique, as you have likely heard to the point of madness, is that the voting itself is preceded by speeches on behalf of candidates and/or, in the case of the Democrats, horse-trading.

If you're headed out to your caucus site  Monday night, you are more than welcome to sit quietly throughout the proceedings, waiting until the actual voting takes place. (Unless you're going on behalf of Martin O'Malley, in which case you should be prepared for an experience not unlike walking onto a used car lot holding a bag full of cash.) However, you are also welcome to participate in the "fun," which means standing up to give a speech about why Jim Gilmore is the best possible Republican candidate.

To make that easier, we point you to our pre-existing arguments outlining how each candidate might find his or her way to his or her party's nomination. We've excluded candidates for whom the argument might be considered a bit more far-fetched, because our rhetorical powers are not that strong. Perhaps yours are better.


The Republicans

The argument for Donald Trump

Written by Chris Cillizza:

What Trump has done masterfully is employ his celebrity and the massive social media following to control the conversation in the race virtually every day since he entered it in mid-June. He has also displayed a remarkable knack for finding the biggest weaknesses of his rivals and relentlessly repeating them until it catches on -- Ted Cruz as unlikable, Jeb Bush as low-energy, and so on.

Trump is a risk-taker. In a field chock-full of traditional pols, he stands way out -- as a guy willing to say and do things that no one else would even consider doing.

I'll add that Trump has one advantage his opponents lack. If Trump can win Iowa, it's because he managed to beat expectations on how effective his campaign would be at getting people to the polls. Trump's campaign depends heavily on the idea that his uniqueness will bring atypical voters out to vote. In a general election that one might anticipate will be close -- since general elections tend to be pretty evenly split on party lines -- Trump is probably the Republican best-poised to undercut the Democratic base and appeal to independent voters.

Yeah, some Republicans may turn away from him as the nominee, but he can plausibly argue that he'd make that up with people who wouldn't turn out to vote for Mr. Random Republican Nominee.

The argument for Ted Cruz

Written by Philip Bump:

Cruz can make a strong argument that he's been a consistent advocate of conservative principles during his time on Capitol Hill. Sure, he hasn't been on the Hill long and, sure, his position on the 2013 immigration reform bill requires some verbal gymnastics, but this was the guy who told conservative activists in the summer of 2013 that he was willing to shut down the government over Obamacare -- and then did it.

Cruz's outspoken disdain for members of the Republican elite might be disadvantageous in most elections, but in 2016, when populist anger at the Republican establishment is hitting a new high-water mark, it's a strong place to be. He's also a good campaigner, who can hold his own on the debate stage or in one-on-one conversations with voters.

Cruz's general election argument is that he, too, will turn out less-likely voters -- from the other end of the spectrum. Conservatives, he says, will flock to the polls to vote for a real conservative in November.

The argument for Marco Rubio

Written by Philip Bump:

Rubio's main strength is that he is a candidate who is more than palatable to moderate and establishment Republicans while not being unacceptable to the conservative base. There hasn't been much oxygen for anyone besides Trump so far, and less still for anyone unwilling to try to push politics-as-usual in front of a bus.

What's more, he has a compelling life story and the ability to tell it. He's naturally likable in the way that Bush, for example, isn't. That's not the most important criterion for being president, but it's an important one for running for the job.

That life story could be a big advantage in November. If Rubio can eat into the Democrats' traditional advantage with Hispanic voters, while presenting a generational contrast with the Democratic nominee, that could be a potent advantage. (Cruz is as young and is also Hispanic, though that's not the argument he relies on.)

The argument for Ben Carson

Written by Aaron Blake:

Carson’s personal story is his ticket to the dance. Born into a poor family and dealing with personal issues, including by his own account anger that led him to lash out violently, Carson worked hard to become a world-famous doctor who was the first to separate conjoined twins who were joined at the head.

Carson’s personal style is certainly unorthodox for a politician – it pretty much screams “DOCTOR” – but that also seemed to appeal to people in an environment where there’s a premium on not being a traditional politician.

If you're trying to convince other Iowans to back Carson, your best bet is to point out that an African-American man whose background isn't in traditional politics offers general election voters an interesting contrast to whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

The argument for Jeb Bush

Written by Aaron Blake:

Bush is reputed to be a very serious and dedicated policymaker. While his brother was often viewed as a cowboy who relied on his gut and shot from the hip, Bush is more cerebral and serious – bookish almost. He also happens to have a pretty stellar profile as a popular former governor of a very important state in presidential politics.

In a policy debate, it’s unlikely anybody in the GOP race could beat Bush. And from a personal standpoint, he’s someone that members of the Republican establishment generally like and think of as a real-deal chief executive.

He's also a Bush, and Bushes have won the presidency in the past! So he's got that going for him.

The argument for Chris Christie

Written by Amber Phillips:

Christie is a naturally gifted communicator. He's a guy who can talk about politics and policy in terms real people can understand and with a passion they can connect to.

He's also a governor who comes from a Democratic-leaning state. Christie has twice managed to convince Jersey to elect him. In his reelection, he dominated his Democratic opponent. If someone responds by asking about the bridge thing, simply say, "What bridge thing?" and implying that that person is making things up.


The Democrats

The argument for Hillary Clinton

Written by Chris Cillizza:

Resilience and perseverance.

Clinton's best moment of this campaign came not on the campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire but on Capitol Hill when she shone during 11 hours of testimony in front of a Republican-led select committee investigating the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Clinton was calm and steady; the Republicans questioning her looked desperate and grasping.

Hillary Clinton is a die-hard wonk who runs campaigns like clockwork. That's not always a perfect way to run a campaign, but her campaign seems pretty unlikely to implode. Even in 2008, it never imploded; it simply kept pace with Barack Obama's after he'd gained a slight lead. There aren't many question marks about how the next nine months would play out.

The argument for Bernie Sanders

Written by Amber Phillips:

The signs are everywhere that Sanders's relentless, passionately delivered message about economic inequality and the big changes America needs make to even the playing field are sticking with potential Democratic voters.

This is the best argument for Sanders, echoing the one for Cruz on the GOP side. Sanders may bring people who normally sidestep the political process to come vote on his behalf. If Sanders were to win Iowa, it would prove that he's captured something that no one could have predicted, even more so than Trump. That bodes well for November.


Oh, also:

The argument for Jim Gilmore

Proudly written by Philip Bump:

Sure, Gilmore's not running the most energetic campaign, but that's allowed him to stick around in a way that people might not have expected. Gilmore has actually seen a slight uptick in his poll numbers, and proudly earned his way back onto the stage in the most recent Republican debate.

He's a veteran and a former governor of Virginia, potentially putting that purple-state into the win column. Is Jim Gilmore the Republicans' best bet for victory in November?

Put it this way: He may not be the worst.