A lot of theories are going to be tested, and a lot of hopes are riding on the outcomes.
It's democracy's feast.
At the Los Angeles Times, "From west to east, Iowa voters have starkly different realities and fears":
They met decades ago, when they were first married, and the three sisters-in-law still gather each week at the Dutch Bakery to catch up amid the sweet smell of flour and sugar floating through the air.Still more.
Despite the cozy setting here on the state's western edge, they can feel the country beneath their feet slipping away, eroding under the threats of immorality and terrorism.
"I never thought we would live in so much fear," said Joanne Niezen, as her coffee sat cooling before her in a Styrofoam cup.
There's fear on the other side of the state as well, though for different reasons.
In the college town of Iowa City, with its hip music scene and pita restaurant advertising "fresh thinking and healthy eating," Veronica Tessler worries about the harsh rhetoric directed at immigrants and the economic inequality that lingers years after the Great Recession.
"I really fear for our country," said Tessler, who left her job at a foreign policy foundation to open a frozen yogurt shop near the University of Iowa campus.
The two communities, located in the most lopsidedly partisan counties in the state, reflect the vast political chasm here and across the country, a divide that President Obama was unable to heal and which may prove insurmountable for whomever takes his place.
"Republicans see an America where the government is too big at home and too feeble abroad. Democrats see an America where the economy is out of whack," said David Nagle, a Democratic attorney who used to represent Iowa City and surrounding Johnson County in Congress. "It's like two trains in the night, passing in opposite directions."
But the division goes far beyond a profound disagreement on issues. While partisan tensions are nothing new, they have deepened and intensified during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the parties have splintered along the lines of age, race and culture. The result is a separation of America into mutually estranged and suspicious tribes...