See more of the story

All eyes are on Iowa tonight, as voters across the state gather for the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

Finishing strong (or falling short) can make or break a candidate's White House hopes. For Klobuchar's all-in campaign in Iowa, the stakes are especially high. A strong showing could give her campaign a critical boost in the next rounds of voting across the country.

Traditionally, there have been just a handful of "tickets out of Iowa." The crowded and unsettled field, as well as some changes in the way results are reported, mean they could be more than one way to spin a win out of tonight's vote.

So what does this mean for Klobuchar's bid? Here's a look at what to watch when it comes to the Minnesota Democrat's performance:

Where does she place?

Klobuchar has trailed the top four front-runners throughout the campaign, landing in fifth place in most surveys. Her campaign says it's seeing a late surge in support, pointing to large crowds, new backers and a series of influential newspaper endorsements. Will that energy translate into results? Some analysts and pundits say a top four finish would be a victory for the Minnesota Democrat.

Winners are traditionally declared based on the estimated number of delegates each campaign will send to the state convention, also known as the state delegate equivalents. Like the electoral college, the formula gives more weight to less populated areas.

Klobuchar has focused heavily on more rural areas of the state, visiting all 99 counties and spending time along the Iowa-Minnesota border, in hopes of picking up support (and delegates) outside the Des Moines metro area. Her husband, John Bessler, predicted Monday that "the fact that Amy showed up is going to mean a lot."

"Smaller town where people are going to be gathering in churches and community centers and those are going to mean a lot, too, in terms of the final delegate count," he said. "The goal here is to get as many delegates as you can coming out of Iowa and moving into New Hampshire."

Can she hit 15% support?

So what does it take to finish in the top four? For Klobuchar, a major challenge is clearing a 15% hurdle in precincts across the state.

The Iowa caucuses actually entail two rounds of voting, or "alignments" in caucus-speak (read more on how the process works here). In order to make it to make it to the final tally, which is the one that counts for the final results and awarding delegates, candidates must win support of 15% of the people who show up to caucus at a a precinct site. Klobuchar has yet to hit that mark in any publicly-released surveys. Her Iowa her polling average, according to The New York Times, is 8%.

With many Iowans undecided or wavering heading into Monday's vote, anything can happen. Klobuchar's camp is hoping that its focus on more rural parts of the state, including the northern border with Minnesota, will help her to hit the viability threshold in those areas. Another twist? Voters backing candidates who fail to meet the threshold in round one can join forces to try to hit 15% for a non-viable candidate in round two. So if enough supporters for candidates who fell short in round one like Klobuchar as a second choice, she could make it through in round two.

Who does she beat?

Placing above a fellow moderate, such as former Vice President Joe Biden or former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, would give a boost to Klobuchar's electability argument heading into New Hampshire. A win over either rival could also help her win over middle-of-the-road donors or supporters still looking for a horse to back in the race.

There are other metrics campaigns may use to spin the results as a victory, too. The outcome will also determine how many of Iowa's 41 pledged national delegates each candidate will get when Democrats actually select a nominee at their national convention later this year. The formula for allocating those delegates, which is different than the state delegate equivalent, is based on results at the statewide and congressional district level. Picking up a pledged delegate would guarantee Klobuchar a spot on the Nevada debate stage later this month.

What comes next?

Klobuchar says she's going to New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation primary next week, "no matter what." Her campaign has already announced a series of events starting Tuesday. A Friday night debate will be a chance for her to make the case on the national stage that her Iowa performance was good enough to stay in the race. “If she can somehow make herself appear to be the moderate alternative to Sanders or Warren, she could make some headway in the last week,” University of New Hampshire's Dante Scala told

After New Hampshire come South Carolina and Nevada, two states Klobuchar hasn't invested as much time or money in so far. A stronger-than-expected finish in Iowa could give her the fundraising and media boost she'd need compete in those races and heading into Super Tuesday next month, when the bulk of delegates to the national convention are up for grabs.