FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
At eight o'clock tonight, the process of electing our next president will be officially under way in Iowa.
This year it's the Republicans who have staged a political demolition derby across the sparsely populated state in the heart of the Corn Belt.
And, every four years a lot of people wonder, why Iowa? How much does it even matter what happens in Iowa? In 2008, Mike Huckabee won in Iowa while John McCain, the eventual nominee, placed fourth. The same thing could happen this year.
Even if Ron Paul, for example, were to win in Iowa, there is almost no chance he will be the Republican nominee.
Howard Kurtz writes in The Daily Beast that "Iowa is in some ways a funhouse mirror, distorting the process as everyone else suspends disbelief and plays along."
Iowa officials insist their state deserves its first-in-the nation billing because its citizens are well-informed and throw tough questions at the candidates. But Iowa is much whiter and more rural than the other 49 states and in almost no way resembles the rest of the country, except maybe North Dakota, or South Dakota. You get the point.
As for today, it's yet to be seen how much Iowa will matter, if at all. If Mitt Romney wins there - and then goes on to win in a landslide in New Hampshire - he could seal the deal pretty quickly.
Nevertheless, it does give an early indication of who has a good organization, who can raise money and who can get an audience to listen to what they have to say. Plus it gives the news media something to do until the New Hampshire primary.
Whatever the outcome of the caucuses, it's probably safe to say Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry might soon want to think about calling it quits.
It's not a question of if those folks drop out, but when.
In the end, Iowa can serve to narrow the field and tell the rest of the country what a relatively few people in the Heartland don't want.
Here’s my question to you: What do the Iowa caucuses really mean?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.