Volunteers get dinner at Newt Gingrich's Iowa headquarters on January 1, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Volunteers get dinner at Newt Gingrich's Iowa headquarters on January 1, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa. - 

Stacey Vanek Smith: Central time will take center stage this evening -- presidential caucuses begin in Iowa. This is just a first step in the long nominating process but it does set the tone for the race -- both politically and financially.

Wayne Moyer teaches political science at Grinnell College in Iowa. Good morning, professor!

Wayne Moyer: Good morning.

Smith: Professor Moyer, supporters of the Iowa caucus say one advantage of the caucus is that it gives less wealthy candidates a chance -- that they can challenge candidates with deeper pockets because the Iowa race is more about meeting with people, shaking hands -- that kind of thing. Is that true?

Moyer: Yes, I think that it is. The nature of the state is such that the smaller population and the less need for television advertising -- which is very expensive -- it does give candidates a chance who don't have quite the resources that others do.

Particularly say, with Rick Santorum, who didn't have very much money; who's rising very rapidly in the polls right now. And he spent, I think, something like 100 days in Iowa, and he would not have been able to do that in a larger state. He wouldn't have had the same kind of impact.

Smith: Now Iowa has its own particular economy -- it's got quite a low unemployment rate, and it's also a very rural state and it's been a good few years for farmers. How is Iowa's economy factoring into the race right now?

Moyer: I don't think that it is making a great deal of difference. I think that the people in Iowa are looking at the national situation as much as they're looking at the Iowa situation. I mean, we still have an unemployment rate of 6 percent, which is still pretty high. I haven't been able to tell how it's helping candidates or hurting candidates per se.

Smith: Wayne Moyer is a professor of political science at Grinnell College in Iowa. Professor Moyer, thank you.

Moyer: Thank you.

Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith