Trump 'unstoppable' if he wins in Iowa caucus
Senior Republicans have privately accepted that, should Donald Trump emerge victorious from last night's Iowa caucus vote, the property mogul's drive for the nomination could be "unstoppable".
One Republican official said: "If Donald Trump wins Iowa, I think he has won, period."
By all the laws of traditional politics, Iowa should be an easy gain for his closest rival Ted Cruz, who was only a few percentage points behind in polls.
More than half of Republican voters in the state identify themselves as "born-again" evangelical Christians. Mr Cruz, the son of an evangelical pastor, has toured all 99 of Iowa's counties in a bus called "The Courageous Crusader".
He gave addresses that were more religious sermons than political; the thrice-married Mr Trump, meanwhile, flitted in and out on his private jet and flaunted the sex-appeal of his wife, a former model.
Mr Cruz called his campaign an "awakening" and at events in churches quoted the Bible and asked his supporters to pray. "Amen," came the cries everywhere he went.
But Mr Cruz's religious "awakening" may not be enough. Voters in Iowa are not only deeply religious, they are angry. That anger is aimed at politicians, at Washington and at an "establishment" they feel has failed to bring prosperity to America.
As a US senator representing Texas, Mr Cruz has struggled to escape the label of being part of that "establishment".
Mr Trump's lack of any political record is actually an advantage in identifying himself as the ultimate outsider. This creates a "passion" among the billionaire's supporters that "just doesn't exist for other candidates," said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
"Cruz has a much bigger operation in Iowa, twice as many people have been contacted by the Cruz campaign than by Trump's, yet more people have committed to come out and vote for Trump," added Mr Murray.
Since the 1940s, the 'Des Moines Register' Poll has been a key indicator of how Iowa will vote. Released two days before the caucuses, it shows who is getting a final surge, and who is flailing. Ahead of last night's vote, the results were announced at the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines. Trump scored 28pc, five points ahead of Cruz.
There was also good news for Marco Rubio who placed a solid third on 15pc, adding weight to anecdotal evidence that he was getting a last-minute surge of support.
However, among the big losers was Jeb Bush who languished on 2pc despite spending millions of dollars on TV adverts, many attacking Mr Rubio.
Chris Christie also disappointed on 3pc.
On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton (pictured) had a lead of only three points over Bernie Sanders, which meant it could go either way.
The poll on both Republican and Democrat sides did not differ dramatically from others in recent weeks.
It did offer some interesting insights though - 71pc of Trump supporters said their minds were made up and could not be changed no matter what, a higher figure than for other candidates.
The poll found 24pc approved of Mr Trump's controversial decision to miss a recent televised debate, 29pc disapproved, and 46pc didn't care.
Three-quarters of voters didn't care that Cruz was born in Canada.
One of the biggest problems voters had with Trump was that he had in the past supported late-term abortion - 56pc said that "bothered" them.
Overall, the poll made happy reading for Mr Trump.
Meanwhile, the controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of an private email account to conduct government business deepened, as the US government revealed that 22 emails found on the unsecured "homebrew" server in her home contained "top secret" information. (© Daily Telegraph London)