Iowa is known as America’s heartland. In 11 months time, the quiet Midwestern state will once again become the focus of the nation as the search for the next U.S. president begins.
Iowa has been the first state in the presidential nominating process since 1972, a tradition it takes pride in and one that makes it a centre of media frenzy every four years. Here, Reuters photographer Jim Young looks at the state behind the headlines.
"Most of the time I am running like crazy all over the state, chasing after a crowd of candidates"
Iowa. The American heartland. Endless farm fields and quiet towns. 56,273 square miles that are soon to become the focus of the nation as the long process of electing the next U.S. president begins.
Even though the Iowa caucus is still 11 months away, potential candidates have already started to visit the Midwestern state.
The caucuses are the first step in a state-by-state nominating race that ultimately will decide the presidential candidates for the 2016 election.
Iowa has been first state in the nominating process since 1972. It takes a great deal of pride in this tradition, opening its doors to the hoards of journalists and political staff that flood into its coffee shops and high school gymnasiums to hear the candidates' pitches.
While a candidate can build momentum by winning here, it definitely does not guarantee the party nomination or a chair in the Oval Office. Mike Huckabee and Al Gore won in their respective parties but could not carry it through to the White House while Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both lost in Iowa and yet still went on to be two-term Presidents. In 2008, Barack Obama trailed Hillary Clinton by 20 points in the early polls, but went on to win the caucus and the Presidency.
There are as many voters considered independents as there are registered Democrats or Republicans here, so the vote can always go either way. Everyone has a chance to win.
It's my fourth presidential election campaign and the work has taken me to almost every state in the country, but Iowa is special. I have always enjoyed the people here.
Most of the time I am running like crazy all over the state, chasing after a crowd of candidates, but over the last couple of trips, I have slowed down and taken some of the back roads. Sometimes I don't even have a particular destination in mind, I just pick a direction and let my GPS guide me.
This approach has allowed me to find some of the more scenic spots in the state. The ones I would normally miss, because I might only have 45 minutes to drive the 70 miles to the next stump speech.
Patriotic painted barns, snow covered tractors, unusual sculptures...now all we need is for the race to begin.