US presidential race: Large turnout key in Iowa for first caucuses joust

Democratic and Republican presidential candidates scrambled across Iowa yesterday to close the deal with the first voters to have a say in the 2016 race for the White House, urging their supporters to take part in today's caucuses in which outsiders Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are pinning their hopes on a large turnout.

Hillary Clinton was on the campaign trail in Iowa. Picture: AP

The caucuses will provide a big test of whether the large enthusiastic crowds turning out at rallies for Trump and Sanders will turn into actual votes when Iowans gather on a wintry night for meetings at schools, libraries and even private homes in the first in a series of state-by-state nominating contests.

Iowa offers only a small contingent of the delegates who will determine the nominees at each party’s national nominating convention in July.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

But those candidates exceeding expectations will gain a burst of momentum heading into New Hampshire with its 9 February primary and other early voting states.

A snowfall forecast to start tonight appeared more likely to hinder the presidential contenders in their rush out of Iowa – and on to New Hampshire – than the voters.

In the last major preference poll before the caucuses, Trump had the support of 28 per cent of likely caucus-goers, with Texas Sen.

Ted Cruz at 23 per cent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 15 per cent. The Iowa Poll, published by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg, also found Hillary Clinton with 45 per cent support to Vermont Sen. Sanders’ 42 per cent. Cruz, who describes himself as a “consistent conservative,” is relying on a strong 
“get-out-the-vote operation, particularly among the key bloc of evangelical voters who reliably turn out for Republican caucuses.

Trump is hoping his star power will encourage a large turnout of first-time caucus-goers.