US presidential hopefuls to make last-minute Iowa pitches

Clinton and Trump have tight leads over Sanders and Cruz in their respective races

Hillary Clinton holds a 45 per cent to 42 per cent edge over Bernie Sanders but the race is effectively a statistical tie, making his once long-shot bid too close to call in Iowa. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton holds a 45 per cent to 42 per cent edge over Bernie Sanders but the race is effectively a statistical tie, making his once long-shot bid too close to call in Iowa. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

 

Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls will make last-minute pitches to the people of Iowa on Monday before voters choose nominees in the state’s caucuses tonight, the inaugural contest of the 2016 election. 

The final poll before voting begins, the respected Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, gave Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tight leads over Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz in their respective races.

Mrs Clinton holds a 45 per cent to 42 per cent edge over Mr Sanders, the socialist Vermont senator, but the race is effectively a statistical tie, making his once long-shot bid too close to call in Iowa.

Mr Trump turned the tables on Mr Cruz, the conservative Texas senator who appeals to the hard-right Tea Party faction and evangelical Christians, leapfrogging him in the poll. 

The billionaire property and entertainment mogul was not hurt by his decision to skip the final Republican debate before the caucuses last week. 

Leading by three

Marco Rubio

In a favourable sign for Mr Rubio (44), he polled as top second-choice nominee among Iowans at 20 per cent, though his support declined on each day of polling, undermining his hope of scoring a strong third-place finish to challenge in later states.

Voting patterns are already notoriously hard to predict in Iowa and this year’s unconventional campaign has made that task even more complex.

Candidates fear that a snowstorm forecast to arrive Iowa as early as Monday night could affect turnout and, experts say, benefit Mr Cruz, who has the support of diehard conservatives.

Mr Trump told a rally in Dubuque on Saturday that he was depending on a high turnout to beat Mr Cruz in the Hawkeye State.

“If it snows on Monday, you go through the snow – you’re from Iowa,” he said to laughs and cheers from the crowd.

Weather challenge

Cary CovingtonIowa State University

Mr Sanders, like Mr Trump an outsider in his party’s race, stressed that turnout was vital for him if he is to beat Mrs Clinton in Iowa.

“We’re neck and neck. I think we have a real shot to win this, if there is a large voter turnout,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Of Mr Sanders’s chances in weather-hit caucuses, Mr Covington said: “[His] people are very enthused, but he has folks who haven’t caucused before. They are at risk of not actually following through.”

The 74-year-old senator on Sunday refused to make political hay of the latest revelation that 22 emails on Mrs Clinton’s private server during her time as secretary of state were classified as top secret.