As the 2012 presidential election contest officially began ...
Lookups spiked on January 3, 2012.
As the 2012 presidential election contest officially began, the Iowa caucuses were this week's main news event.
A caucus is "a meeting of members of a political party for the purpose of choosing candidates for an election." The voting is done at small local gatherings; citizens listen to advocates for each candidate and write the name of their pick on a blank piece of paper - a simple and elegant form of democracy.
The word caucus originated in New England - where decisions are often still made in open town meetings - but its specific origin is unknown.
By comparison, a primary is an organized statewide election that uses printed ballots.