Democratic presidential hopefuls in tight race as Iowa race looms
Some candidates dash back and forth from Trump's impeachment trial to last-minute campaign events
IOWA CITY As the large field of Democratic presidential candidates feverishly criss-crossed the small rural state of Iowa on Saturday, the outcome of its first-in-the-nation vote in two days remained highly uncertain.
Three of the leading candidates seized on a brief break from their duties as jurors in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in Washington to rush to the state for a flurry of last-minute campaign events, part of the primary process to determine the party's eventual presidential nominee.
The senators - self-styled democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, progressive Elizabeth Warren and moderate Amy Klobuchar - all had several events planned starting Saturday.
The impeachment trial created an unprecedented situation by limiting key senators' ability to campaign in Iowa in the closing days before the state's presidential caucuses.
Today's crunch vote is headed to a photo finish, with leftist Sanders holding a narrow polling lead over former vice-president Joe Biden, as the Democratic candidates battle to take on Mr Trump in the November election.
Mr Sanders, Ms Warren and Ms Klobuchar have to return to Washington today, along with Senator Michael Bennet who trails badly in the polls, as the trial resumes.
Senate leaders have scheduled a vote for Wednesday that appears virtually certain to end in Mr Trump's acquittal on the charges of abuse of power and contempt of Congress.
Iowa has traditionally served as a vital launching point - or burial ground - for presidential campaigns.
A good result there can propel a candidate to new victories in the states that come hard on its heels, starting with tiny New Hampshire eight days later. A poor showing can signal the end of the road.
Eight of the 11 Democrats still in the race were in Iowa on Saturday. Mr Sanders, at 78 the oldest Democratic candidate, has seen his candidacy buoyed by enthusiastic support among young voters.
"We must defeat and we will defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country," the Vermont senator said at a rally in Indianola.
Just as in every presidential year, thousands of volunteers fanned out across the Midwestern farm state of just over three million inhabitants to try to convince neighbours or passers-by to vote for their favourite.
Surprisingly, nearly one Iowa voter in two claimed to still be undecided.- AFP