COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's a big day in Iowa as the caucuses for both Republican and Democratic candidates get underway Monday evening. The Iowa caucuses are the first set of votes for a candidate. Caucus-goers will gather Monday evening in schools, libraries and community centers across the state.
At each of the 1,700 GOP caucuses, representatives from the presidential campaigns will have an opportunity to deliver speeches. Then caucus-goers cast ballots, usually on paper, which are reported to the state party.
On the Democratic side, the process is a little more intricate. Attendees at the almost 1,700 caucuses must stand in groups representing each candidate. If supporters of a candidate don't meet a certain threshold of support set at the beginning of the evening, they are forced to realign themselves with another candidate. Only after candidates under the viability threshold are weeded out from each caucus do the totals get reported to the Iowa Democratic Party.
"When you look at the grand total of people who participate in caucuses compared to primaries, it's night and day. It's a much smaller number of folks," says South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison.
South Carolina Republican Party Chair Matt Moore says, "A lot of what happens after Iowa depends on who wins or gets second or third in Iowa. It's about expectations, who can meet those expectations. Not necessarily about winning, but who can meet expectations."
Voters here in South Carolina will be watching the Iowa Caucuses closely. But, ultimately, the votes Monday in Iowa will weed out some candidates. In the past several elections, the winner of the Iowa Caucuses has not typically been the winner here in the Palmetto State.
Republican Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and Rick Santorum won in 2012. On the Democratic side, President Obama won in 2008 and 2012.
The Iowa caucuses vote Monday will indicate likely candidates who will remain the race. Moore says the Iowa caucuses are like a filter process. After New Hampshire, the South Carolina primary becomes the big test with several hundred thousand people casting their vote.
"I think our primary will be very pivotal regarding what happens on March the first, which is just a week later when all the southern states vote. So South Carolina will be a bellwether for the Southern states," says Moore.
"I always believe that it will come back to South Carolina to be that decisive voice to determine who is going to be the next nominee," adds Harrison.
South Carolinians will cast their vote in a few weeks and we're getting our first look at likely primary votes here. The latest NBC News poll has Donald Trump leading the Republican race at 36%. With Ted Cruz following at 20%.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the clear favorite with 64%. Bernie Sanders is polling at 27%.
Voters in the South Carolina Republican primary will go to the polls on February 20th. The Democratic primary takes place the following Saturday on February 27th.