People dismantle the signage on stage after U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sanders' campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa

Iowa kicks off 2016 U.S. presidential race with caucus tradition

People dismantle the signage on stage after U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sanders' campaign rally in Dubuque, IowaThe long and sometimes arcane ritual of electing the next U.S. president begins on Monday in more than 1,100 schools, churches and libraries across Iowa, a state that wields political influence far greater than its small size. After more than a year of up-close and personal evaluation of the candidates, Iowans will gather with their neighbors on what promises to be a cold wintry night to kick off the state-by-state process of picking the Republican and Democratic nominees for the Nov. 8 presidential election. The starring opening-night role of the largely rural Midwestern state in the presidential drama, now four decades old, is a source of pride for Iowa voters, who spend months evaluating the candidates, looking them in the eye and asking questions.

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