With fewer than 48 hours before Iowans cast the first votes in the 2016 presidential elections, both parties are facing neck-and-neck races, according to the last major poll before Monday’s election
Republicans Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are fighting it out for first, with the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll putting Trump at 28 percent and Cruz at 23 percent.
The Democratic race is even tighter: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has 45 percent of the poll, while Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has 42 percent. The margin of error is 4 percent.
The candidates are taking no chances: Republicans and Democrats alike made 55 stops in Iowa Saturday, criss-crossing every corner of the state.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who had 2 percent in the Iowa poll, meanwhile, was in New Hampshire, Saturday, where he has focused his campaign efforts. He’ll be in New Hampshire up until Feb. 9, when that state holds its primary.
Kasich’s day was dominated by the news that the New York Times had endorsed him for president, calling him “the only plausible choice for Republicans.”
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Whether the endorsement from the liberal-leaning editorial board will benefit Kasich is to be seen; conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg called it the “editorial equivalent of assisted suicide.”
But Kasich, for his part, said he was happy to have it. “I’ve proven that I can attract voters across the board,” he told Fox News. The Times endorsed Clinton on the Democratic side.
The GOP fight
But in Iowa, the fight for GOP voters is particularly acute between Cruz and Trump, who are fighting for the large swath of voters disillusioned with the establishment.
At an event in Ames, just north of Des Moines, Cruz threw out conservative red meat to a standing-room only crowd Saturday morning, calling for a flat tax and a tax system where Americans could fill out their taxes on a postcard. Volunteers handed out blue jerseys with Cruz’s name on it and the number 45; the next president will be the nation’s 45th.
“We have 53 hours until the Iowa caucuses,” he said. “This is the time for the men and women of Iowa to make a decision.”
He only criticized Trump subtly, poking fun at the star power in the GOP primary. “Next cycle I’m told Lady Gaga is going to run,” he said.
Britany Danielson, 47, a stay-at-home mom from Roland, Iowa said she showed up to make sure Cruz was “getting the support he needs.”
“I think Trump cares about Trump,” she said. “He’s got no consistent record except saying what he needs to say.”
But seven hours later and 185 miles down the road, a crowd packed into a Davenport theater to see Trump had an entirely different point of view.
“He tells it how it is, and that’s something that the country needs,” said Tom Dowell, 52, a warehouse operator from Davenport of Trump. “The country’s in trouble, and he knows how to put the right people around him.”
Trump’s wide-ranging talk covered everything from the military to the economy. Lines about protecting gun rights and against political correctness drew particularly raucous applause. “We’re going to bring our country back,” he said, “and we’re going to be proud again.”
The candidates will be back at it on Sunday; as of 8 p.m. Saturday, 38 stops were scheduled.
And the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll made the reasons for those stops abundantly clear: The poll found 45 percent of GOP voters polled admitted they could be persuaded to change their minds.
More Democratic debates in the works
Sanders’ campaign says it’s discussing proposed spring debate sites with Clinton’s campaign.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement that the Clinton campaign hasn’t accepted debates his campaign proposed for March 3 in Michigan and April 14 in New York.
Weaver says they “apparently agreed” to May 24 in California.
Weaver notes that Clinton’s campaign wants to debate in Flint, Michigan, which has battled with a lead-contaminated water crisis.
He says Sanders is “pleased” to do so on March 3 before the Michigan primary, as long as Clinton will agree to one in Brooklyn, New York on April 14.
The two campaigns have agreed to hold another presidential debate next week in New Hampshire, and three more in the spring. The national party hasn’t yet signed off on the additional debates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.