Final poll shows tight races ahead of Iowa caucuses

Iowa caucusesThe last major preference poll before Monday’s Iowa caucuses showed a change at the top of the GOP race.

The Iowa Poll, published Saturday by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg, said Republican real estate mogul Donald Trump has the support of 28 perfect of likely caucus goers, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 23 percent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 15 percent.

It’s the first time Trump has led this poll since August, pollsters said. Trump’s support has risen by six points since early January, and 71 percent of his supporters say their minds are made up.

The poll was taken beginning the day after Trump announced he would skip last week’s GOP debate. It’s not a decision that seems likely to hurt him 46 percent of likely caucus goers said they didn’t care and 24 percent approved of his decision. Only 29 percent didn’t approve.

Should voters have second thoughts, Cruz could benefit, he leads the group who could change their minds, albeit by a small margin, over Trump and Marco Rubio. A plurality of Ben Carson’s voters chose Cruz second.

One troubling sign for Cruz, however, is that his favorability, though still quite high, at 65 percent, has dropped 11 percentage points since early January.

On the Democratic side, the survey finds former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton with 45 percent support to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 42 percent.

Both candidates see an increase in support, with Clinton up by three percentage points since early January and Sanders up by two. Clinton leads among voters who say they are certain to caucus, and Sanders has an edge with voters who said they would probably caucus.

Three percent of likely Democratic caucus goers chose Martin O’Malley, which shows a drop of a percentage point since January.

The poll of 602 likely Republican caucus-goers and 602 likely Democratic caucus-goers was taken Tuesday to Friday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The candidates and their surrogates crisscrossed state Saturday in a frenzied weekend prelude to the first presidential contest of the 2016 race which has taken an unexpected turn with the emergence of outsider candidates who have challenged the establishment in both parties.

Iowa offers only a small contingent of the delegates who will determine the nominees at each party’s national convention in July. But Monday’s caucuses will provide a test of whether the large enthusiastic crowds turning out at rallies for Trump and Sanders will turn into actual votes. The caucuses should also help winnow out the crowded Republican field and provide momentum heading into the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.



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