Trump leads crowded GOP field going into Iowa Caucus; Clinton, Sanders tied

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a "Get Out to Caucus" rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa January 31, 2016, one day before Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus © Brian Snyder
Caucusing begins in Iowa on Monday evening, the first event of the 2016 primary season. Presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle are looking to gain crucial momentum heading into the New Hampshire primary.

The party meetings begin at 7 p.m. local time, with 1,100 Republican and nearly 900 Democratic caucus sites across Iowa’s 99 counties.

The Republican Caucus is simple enough. A representative for the candidates speaks on their behalf before a secret ballot is cast. The totals are then tallied statewide.

It’s a bit more complicated for Democrats. The out-in-the-open voting can take hours to complete, with attendees having to cast their vote by physically standing in an area delegated to that candidate. If a Democratic hopeful fails to get 15 percent of the vote, they are eliminated in the first round. A so-called “realignment” period then takes place, where voters who have lost a candidate are free to support another, often through methods of persuasion. Those results are collated across the state in all precincts and eventually translated into votes for delegates who will represent their states at the party conventions this summer.


Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is leading the crowded GOP field with 28 percent of Republicans in Iowa planning to caucus for him, according to a Des Moines Register-Bloomberg News survey published Saturday. Respondents ranked Ted Cruz as more popular and respected, but the Texas senator is still behind Trump at 23 percent. Mainstream Republicans tend to support Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is at 15 percent. At 10 percent, neurosurgeon Ben Carson is the only other GOP hopeful polling in double-digits.

Much of Trump’s support comes from first-time caucusers, a Quinnipiac University poll found, with the real estate magnate leading Cruz 31 percent to 24 percent. Rubio is in third at 17 percent, while Carson polls at 8 percent. The race is much tighter among previous caucusers, however, with Cruz leading Trump by a razor-thin margin of 26 percent to 25 percent.

“Donald Trump could win Iowa,” Stuart Stevens, a veteran GOP strategist who has remained unaffiliated in the 2016 election cycle, told the Register. “But he has little room for error. He is almost no one's second choice.”

More than a quarter of decided voters ‒ 28 percent ‒ could be convinced to change their mind, according to the Quinnipiac poll, while the Register-Bloomberg survey found that nearly half ‒ 45 percent ‒ of GOP caucusers could bolt from their preferred candidate.


Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist, is leading the trio of Democrats among first-time caucus goers, with the independent Vermont senator garnering 62 percent of those Iowans’ support to Hillary Clinton’s 35 percent. But the former secretary of state leads Sanders 52 percent to 41 percent among those Iowans who have caucused previously, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

Overall, Sanders trails Clinton by 3 percent ‒ a statistical tie ‒ heading into the caucuses, the Register-Bloomberg survey found. If turnout is high, it will favor the underdog Sanders, while low turnout helps establishment favorite Clinton, the senator told RT's Ed Schultz. In December, Clinton led Sanders by six points in the same poll.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has consistently polled around 3 percent in Iowa, so he is likely to be eliminated in the first round of caucusing in most, if not all, precincts. However, the Clinton campaign has trained 4,000 volunteer precinct captains to “throw some bodies into O’Malley’s corner” as a way to hurt Sanders in the second round, the Washington Post reported.

Prominent Democratic Socialist and intellectual Cornel West has been campaigning for Sanders in Iowa.

“Our dear brother, Bernie Sanders, he stands on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr… and all of those in the past who were willing to speak the truth and the condition of truth is always to allow suffering to speak, that’s why we going to win this, you all!” West said at a Davenport event on Friday. “That’s why he’s going to the White House!”

West took the opportunity to slam Clinton’s establishment politics at a Sanders rally in Manchester on Saturday.

“I know that she would like to say that she’s against the establishment, but I was born at night, not last night,” he said, as the audience laughed. “You can’t receive that Wall Street money and say [they] have no influence in your behavior. You can’t receive that money from the lobbyists that provide profit-making institutions tied to prisons and say somehow you’re going to fight mass incarcerations.”

For her part, Clinton received endorsements from her husband, President Bill Clinton; former Representative Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona), who left the House after an assassination attempt; and the New York Times, among others.

"I'm here to talk to you about Hillary Clinton. Hillary is tough. Hillary is courageous," Giffords said at a Clinton event on Saturday, reading slowly, yet emphatically, from a piece of paper. "In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby. That's why I'm voting for Clinton."

"There's only one clear choice. There's only one person who could stand up to the gun lobby and to huge, corporate, monied interests," Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, told the Huffington Post. "You look at everybody else's record, and there's a record of being beholden to the gun lobby. That is not in America's best interest."

A pro-Clinton super-PAC also received $6 million in donations from business magnate George Soros in January.