With Wisconsin's presidential primary still more than two months away, some Badger State politicos are hopping the border to assist their chosen candidates in the first nominating contest of the election cycle.
Iowa voters will gather Monday night in the fabled schools, churches and community centers — and in some cases, homes — to pledge their support and attempt to persuade others to back their preferred candidates. Some of those candidates will get a little help from Wisconsin.
Absent from the Hawkeye State will be Gov. Scott Walker, whose short-lived presidential campaign focused heavily on Iowa until he exited the race in September.
Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, will speak on behalf of Marco Rubio in Hampton, Iowa — a town of about 5,000, about an hour-and-a-half north of Des Moines. Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, is also in Iowa working to shore up support for the Florida senator.
"My whole reason for supporting Rubio is I think he’s the most consistent conservative that can appeal to the broadest base of people and can actually win in November," Steineke said, adding that he thinks Rubio is attracting new voters to the Republican Party.
With Trump the expected GOP winner Monday, Rubio and Cruz supporters are vying for second- and third-place finishes.
"In Iowa, these caucuses — there’s generally a surprise in them," Steineke said. "What that's gonna be, I’m not sure. I anticipate (Rubio) is going to do well. I think he’ll do better than projections. If it’s going to be enough to overtake Cruz for second place or beyond that, I’m not sure."
It will be Steineke's first caucus experience. But he's in luck in at least one regard: the Republican caucus is a much more straightforward process than its Democratic counterpart.
Each of Iowa's 1,681 precincts will hold caucuses Monday night, where more than just presidential candidates will be selected. Voters will also select delegates and discuss their party's platform.
Republicans listen to representatives for each candidate make their pitches, then cast their preferences on a secret ballot. That's pretty much it. For Democrats, it's a little trickier.
Democratic caucusgoers stand in clusters based on their presidential first choice. But if a candidate doesn't have enough supporters to be "viable" — usually about 15 percent of attendees — then the other campaigns will make their pitches to poach them. For more on the intricacies of caucus operations, read Ben Jacobs' explainer for The Guardian.
The national attention will be on which candidates "win, place or show." People want to know who comes in first place, sure, but conventional wisdom is that there are "three tickets" out of Iowa. A candidate doesn't have to win it all, he or she just needs to have a strong showing in the top tier.
That's good news for Republicans who don't want to see Donald Trump become the party's nominee — people like Steineke, and like Brian Sikma, who works for a Wisconsin-based conservative organization.
Sikma traveled with a friend to Des Moines last month and spent 48 hours at "Camp Cruz" — the former college dorm that's providing a temporary home to Ted Cruz volunteers.
In his first Iowa caucuses experience, Sikma made phone calls from campaign headquarters and attended a rally for the Texas senator.
Sikma said he was able to reach some Republican voters who don't agree with everything Cruz stands for, but find they agree with him on more issues than they do with Trump. Many of the voters he spoke with wanted to talk about national security and immigration, Sikma said.
While he was there to win support for Cruz, Sikma also chatted with Democratic voters who were happy to talk about their own political inclinations.
Molly Wyant, a Democrat from Madison, decided to make the trip to Des Moines with her fiance, whose parents live there. She's not there to support a particular candidate; instead, she'll be assisting the Iowa Democratic Party with logistics from its headquarters.
Volunteers like Wyant are fielding calls with questions like, "Where's my polling place?" and "Can I bring my kids?" and will be available to help with any problems that arise throughout the evening.
"I have my thoughts of what’s likely, but I do think there’s no forgone conclusion," Wyant said. "I think it’s likely that Hillary (Clinton) is going to come away with it, but I don’t know by how much and I don’t know that it’s foregone."
While Wyant, Steineke and Sikma disagree on political ideology, they all agree the Iowa caucuses are a unique and admirable process.
"The level of involvement from individuals is just really cool and really high," Wyant said. "People have to really make an effort to be part of this process."
Sikma said he'd like to see the "first in the nation" status rotate among several Midwestern states, so a state like Wisconsin could have its turn in the spotlight. But he said having "flyover country" consistently come first in the process keeps both parties grounded.
"I like the idea of people getting together in their communities and having a chance to listen to each other and listen to representatives of each of the candidates make that final pitch," Steineke said. "It also seems to get more people involved. You look at how seriously people in Iowa take this ... the people involved in this seem to be pretty thoughtful."