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The Joenses served their guests peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, brownies and coffee, and the five sat in the gray-carpeted living room and talked, each person having a quick say, before they voted.

The final tally of the vote — cast on white notebook paper and collected in a brown fedora — was three for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and two for former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Heading into the evening Mr. Joens had leaned toward former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but his wife, a Santorum supporter, swayed him.

At Point of Grace Church, which hosted two precincts together, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s wife spoke and urged voters to consider electability.

“There is one person that can actually defeat Barack Obama, and that’s Mitt Romney,” she said. “So when I ask for your vote tonight, I want you to consider who might defeat Barack Obama and go to Washington and do the things that are hard.”

Her husband ran away with the voting, winning almost half of the 357 votes cast in the Waukee precinct and 40 percent of the 550 votes cast in the Urbandale precinct. Mr. Santorum won 141 votes across the two precincts, good for about 16 percent.

Similar scenes played out at caucuses in 1,771 other precincts across the state.

Voters began each meeting by electing their officers for the caucuses, then reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, before getting down to the business of caucusing.

Some caucuses took votes on paper ballots, while others used a show of hands to make their calculations.

In one Urbandale precinct, where C-SPAN broadcast the caucus, Mr. Santorum’s wife, Karen, showed up to speak for him, bringing four of their seven children.

“He’s a great daddy,” she said. “He understands the importance of family as the foundation of a strong society.”

Speaking at a caucus in Cedar Falls, Mr. Gingrich said he brought the most national experience to the table, and said he helped usher through President Reagan’s economic and military programs.

“This is not the time for another amateur,” he said.