Tight race between Clinton, Sanders in Iowa; Trump pulls ahead in 1st balloting

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (KUNA) — With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses only two days away, polls show the Democratic Party battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is too close to call, while on the Republican side, Donald Trump appears to have pulled ahead of a crowded field.
But Iowa has a history of being unpredictable, with some caucus-goers saying they remain undecided, and a large percentage saying they could change their minds by the time balloting begins on Monday.
Among the Republican field, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who had pulled ahead or even with Trump in Iowa polls earlier this month, has been slipping in polls this week. To make matters potentially worse for Cruz, political analysts agreed that he did not do well on Thursday night in Iowa in the final Republican debate before caucus goers make their decision.
The front-page headline on the leading daily newspaper in Iowa, the Des Moines Register, on Friday read: “Rough night for Cruz.” The Thusday night debate was boycotted by Trump, who cited his feud with Fox News, which was moderating the event. The absence of the New York real estate mogul from the stage left a vacuum, and the result was that Cruz took the most heat from the other candidates, as well as from one of the event moderators. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has been running in third or fourth place in Iowa polls behind Trump and Cruz, attacked Cruz’s record on immigration, which was the dominant issue during the debate. But Rubio struggled to answer criticism for his own shifting positions on a path to legal US citizenship. The dynamic of the Republican contest has centered on the battle between Trump and Cruz, who are considered the anti-establishment candidates, while the rest of the contest has focused on the mostly establishment field, which includes Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
For months, the conventional wisdom has been that one of the establishment candidates would eventually overtake Trump and Cruz, but so far, polls show that is not happening.
In the Democratic Party battle to succeed Barack Obama as President, Clinton — former secretary of State, former New York senator and former first lady — is the centrist, establishment candidate. Her main opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is an independent and self-described “democratic socialist” who is especially popular among younger voters. Sanders has consistently drawn bigger crowds to his political events than has Clinton with his message of universal health care and pledges to break up big Wall Street banks.
However, Clinton has the money and organizational muscle that most analysts believe will ultimately net her the nomination.
The latest Washington Post-ABC news poll shows Clinton holding a double-digit, but narrowing lead, over Sanders nationally.
While she is still viewed as the front-runner, victories by Sanders in Iowa, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 — where Sanders holds a substantial polling lead in what is his neighboring state — would likely result in a more drawn-out and costly nomination battle for Clinton.
In the past four months, Clinton’s national polling margin has shrunk by 12 percentage points. Still, the latest poll shows her leading Sanders nationally by 55 percent to 36 percent among registered Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independent voters. (end) rm.nfm