"People are really looking forward to the Iowa caucus to see what happens there tonight," said Sandy Joiner, President of the Western Wake Republican Club.
"The number one focus has been the weather is really going to determine how many people are able to get out. And I heard someone call them winter warriors. And I think that's going to really be the main factor in who gets out and has the discussions tonight," added Beverly Naten, who serves as the club's Second Vice President.
As Joiner and Naten prepare for a Congressional candidate forum in Cary next week, they discussed issues important to local voters.
"I know that the voters are concerned about the border, about inflation, cost of goods and interest rates going up. It's hard to buy a house. It's too hard to go to college," Joiner explained.
Polling from 538 shows former President Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in Iowa, though the race for second place appears much closer.
"We do have the potential for Iowa being the one that kind of culls the herd a little bit. That's kind of its traditional role going into the primary in New Hampshire. Certainly if (former South Carolina Gov. Nikki) Haley comes out ahead of (Florida Gov. Ron) DeSantis, because DeSantis has really staked his campaign on doing well in Iowa, that could be the beginning of the end for him," said Dr. Andy Jackson, Director for the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation.
While polling from 538 has Trump ahead in New Hampshire, the margin is far closer, with Haley poised to potentially parlay a strong showing tonight into momentum next week.
"(The Haley campaign has) really staked more of their race on New Hampshire. It's a very different kind of electorate in New Hampshire. They're a little less socially conservative, a really strong libertarian streak going on there. They tend to have a real mind of their own in New Hampshire. So if you're going to kind of buck the trend, New Hampshire is a good place to do it. Particularly for Haley, if you get a strong second place in Iowa and then come in really close or maybe even winning, depending on how things go in New Hampshire, that could really help her down the line," said Jackson.
Jackson believes North Carolina's Republican electorate is more similar to that in Iowa, adding the former president's previous success in the state bodes well for a repeat performance on Super Tuesday.
"Unless either DeSantis or Haley have some major breakthroughs, I think it's going to be really difficult for either of them to overcome Trump's advantage here," said Jackson.
"This is the Bible Belt, and we do kind of fall back on our genteelism of Southerners. I know that that has offended a few people, but all in all, I still think the die-hard supporters for President Trump will come through," noted Naten.
Despite its status as first-in-the-country, Iowa does not have a strong recent history of predicting who will be the Republican nominee. The last Republican candidate who was not seeking re-election that won Iowa and the party's nomination was George Bush in 2000. However, it's been a better indicator on the Democratic side, with Al Gore (2000), John Kerry (2004), Barack Obama (2008), and Hillary Clinton (2016) all winning Iowa and ultimately claiming the nomination, though Joe Biden finished a distant fourth in the state in 2020.