The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are just five days away, and despite critics who think Iowans do not have the mental capabilities and "worldliness" to properly pick a presidential candidate, the state's record of choosing a person who eventually calls the White House home is impressive, to say the least.

Just four years ago the intelligent, well-educated people of this state surprised just about everyone by picking Barack Obama as the No. 1 Democratic hopeful and the rest - as they say - is history.

But those who scoff at the validity of the Iowa caucuses continue to insist Iowa doesn't even come close to representing the real views of the majority of Americans. There may be more truth in that than we care to admit, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing. In fact, I'd contend Iowans in general are conscientious people who cast their votes with a well-thought-out sincerity the rest of the nation would do well to emulate.

The good folks of Iowa view their role in the election process as a true responsibility that must not be taken lightly ... and so they don't. I'm not sure how many other U.S. citizens take their voting right as seriously as we do. I know that's a gross generalization that makes me sound prejudiced to a fault, but it holds just as much water as declaring Iowans are just too "hickish" and naïve to properly pick the next president of the United States.

With that said, Tuesday is an important moment for the entire nation. Will Iowa support the polls that show Mitt Romney as the Republican front-runner or will the voters once again surprise by choosing an also-ran from the middle of the pack to carry the Grand Old Party banner to Washington, D.C.? Only time will tell.

In talking to my friends and cronies at our local coffee klatch, there doesn't appear to be an Iowa favorite at this point, so I'd say it's anybody's race to win ... from Romney, to Newt, to Ron Paul to Michele Bachmann (and all the others with their hat in the ring).

The one recurring theme that continues to emerge, however, is how unimpressed these coffee-guzzling Norwegians are with the Republican field.

"There are over 300 million people in America, and these guys (and gal) are the best choices we can come up with?" is a statement I've heard more than a few times of late.

"I mean c'mon. What's wrong with this picture? Why can't a true leader and statesman/woman rise up and present a reasonable, competent plan that will restore our economy and shore up our reputation throughout the world? There must be someone out there who can show us the way."

In answer to that all-too-true theory, some insist it's not because we don't have any individuals with those presidential capabilities, it's because the truly smart, charismatic ones who can get the job done have absolutely no desire to run for the highest office in the land.

They want nothing to do with the never-ending scrutiny that goes with the job, and, truth be told, many just don't want to take a pay cut. And it's hard to blame them. Who would want to live four or eight years of his or her life under a microscope where every move, every decision, every statement is analyzed to death and picked apart by the relentless media that seems more intent on creating controversy than reporting the truth.

I know I sure wouldn't want to do it ... but I don't think I'll ever have to worry about that. In fact, I'm sure I won't (keep your comments to yourself, please).

Regardless of what kind of message Iowans send to the rest of America Tuesday, there is one thing that must happen if we are to reclaim our honored position as the place where presidential hopefuls get a leg up on the competition: It's critically important the caucuses are well attended.

If we don't show up and participate in the process, then we can't really refute those who claim Iowa has no right to have such a profound influence on the election. That only makes sense.

So next Tuesday evening, sacrifice a night in front of the wide-screen TV and participate in the process. If for no other reason, do it for all those brave souls who have given their lives so we can have the freedom to choose our leaders through a fair, democratic process.

It's the least we can do.