All eyes on Iowa as hopefuls count on big turnout
Democratic and Republican presidential candidates across Iowa were scrambling for the first votes in the 2016 race for the White House, urging their supporters to take part in caucuses in which outsiders Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are pinning their hopes on a large turnout.
Iowa offers only a small contingent of the delegates who will determine the nominees at each party's national nominating convention in July. But those candidates exceeding expectations will gain a burst of momentum heading into New Hampshire with its February 9 primary and other early voting states. The caucus results should also help cut down the crowded Republican field of nearly a dozen candidates.
Snow forecast for last night 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, Mr Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul, had the support of 28pc of likely caucus-goers, with Texas Senator Ted Cruz on 23pc and Florida Senator Marco Rubio on 15pc.
The Iowa Poll, published by 'The Des Moines Register' and Bloomberg, also found Hillary Clinton with 45pc support to Mr Sanders' 42pc.
"I don't have to win in Iowa," Mr Trump said, before adding he believes he has "a good chance" of victory.
Mr Rubio pitched himself as the pragmatic choice for Republicans who want to win the November election.
On the Democratic side, Mr Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont is depending on enthusiastic young voters to turn up in greater numbers at the caucuses. Mrs Clinton has more support among older voters who regularly turn up for the caucuses.
"People are really enthusiastic, and if people come out to vote, I think you're going to look at one of the biggest political upsets in the modern history of our country," Mr Sanders said.