We have arrived in 2012 - a leap year that promises a Summer Olympic extravaganza this summer in London, an overload of apps availability for your tablet, stock availability in Facebook, the arrival of The Hobbit and a 3-D version of Titanic to the big screen, plus a presidential election that takes its first steps in the process today.  Welcome to Iowa - the center of the news universe for another few hours.

The Iowa Caucuses will bring a potential front-runner to the Republican party, or see an upstart make a name for himself in the beginning of a long war to see who has was it takes to battle Barack Obama in November.  "The Hawkeye State" has taken pride in being the 1st contest of the election season - putting its own unique stamp on the election process.

Iowa may not be the state that gets you The White House, but poor results have done in many candidates for their hope of their party's nomination, which explains why many Republican hopefuls have been basically living in Iowa for months.  Another important point about Iowa is that it is a "Swing State".  The last 10 Presidential elections has seen Iowa be split (5 for the Democrats, and 5 for the Republicans).  Many early predictions for 2012 could Iowa be the state that could sway the election one way or another.

It's amazing how this one state that holds around 1% of the delegate count becomes all the rage every 4 years, but what do we really know about Iowa?  The state's unemployment rate is around 5% (which is better than most in the nation), the state's economy is driven mainly by manufacturing (23% of the state's Gross National Product), there are over 3 Million Iowans with 1/5 of them living in the Des Moines area, and Iowa ranks as one of the safest states to live in.

Iowa has been referred to as the "American Heartland", and in the past as the heart of the Corn Belt, but what kind of excitement is there in The Hawkeye State other than today's caucuses?  Well there is the world's biggest frying pans in Brandon, the John Wayne Birthplace Museum is in Madison County, and that is the same Madison County that Clint Eastwood directed and created The Bridges Of Madison County for the big screen.

You may be surprised to find many A-List Hollywood talent came from Iowa: Ashton Kutcher, Elijah Wood, Emmy winner Michael Emerson ("Lost", and "person of Interest"), Michelle Monaghan and Cloris Leachman to name a few.  Athletes of a high caliber also are Iowans:  Gold Medal gymnast Shawn Johnson, Hall Of Fame NFL running back Roger Craig, and KC Chiefs starting QB Kyle Orton.  The state even has a former president hail from there - Herbert Hoover.

College sports are major gatherings in Iowa, with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes drawing 70,000 fans consistenly.  Basketball is even bigger with 4 Division I Men's teams in good position for the NCAA Tournament in March.  Wrestling is the trademark sport for the state at the University of Iowa, who hold 23 national titles.

The most famous pro sports team in Iowa is the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League - this team produced a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Kurt Warner for the St. Louis Rams.

Now you know a little more about Iowa than you ever expected to know.  As you watch the news coverage tonight of the Iowa Caucuses, understand that this is truly the state's defining moment.  You can say you were a part of it, or you can watch Celebrity Wife Swap at 10pm on ABC.