Live Blog: On the Ground at the 2016 Iowa Caucuses

VICE News reports from the ground on the first contest of the 2016 election, which has yielded a winner — Ted Cruz on the Republican side — and a cliffhanger, with Sanders and Clinton virtually tied among Democrats.
February 1, 2016, 2:00pm

The Iowa caucuses on February 1 play a crucial role in deciding the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. VICE News reporters Liz Fields and Olivia Becker are on the ground in the Hawkeye State covering the first contest in the 2016 election. **__Follow them on the VICE Snapchat account (user name ViceMag) or Twitter for more updates: @lianzifields and** @obecker928

Related: What You Need to Know About the Iowa Caucuses

10:40am: Sanders Not Done Yet

The Iowa Democratic Party has called the caucuses for Hillary Clinton, but Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn't yet conceded the race.

Sanders told reporters on a flight out of Des Moines last night that he had asked the party to report the raw vote count for the precincts, according to the Guardian. An actual recount, given Iowa's caucus system is impossible, but Sanders' campaign has requested the individual vote tallies in addition to the number of delegates elected at each caucus last night which are the totals the state parties typically report.

"The results tonight are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history," Iowa Democratic Party chairman Andy McGuire said in a statement in the early hours of Tuesday morning. McGuire reported that Clinton will take 699.57 delegates to the state convention, while Sanders earned 695.49 delegates. " We still have outstanding results in one precinct (Des Moines—42), which is worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents," McGuire said.

Those state delegates will be narrowed down through a complex series of additional caucuses in Iowa before ultimately choosing its representatives to the Democratic National Convention. At that point, Clinton is expected to have 22 delegates to Sanders' 21, per the Associated Press.

Both candidates are now heading for New Hampshire, where Sanders has a solid lead in polling ahead of next Tuesday's primary.

4:00am: Decided by a Coin Flip

The race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was so close to call that in at least two precincts the final result was decided by a coin toss, following Iowa's Democratic caucusing rules.

News network MSNBC declared Hillary Clinton the "apparent winner" shortly before 3am CST, swiftly followed by a statement from her campaign's Iowa state director Matt Paul declaring victory with "no uncertainty."

Unbelievable coin toss decides a dead heat in west Davenport! @HillaryClinton wins! @chucktodd @CNBC @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/CtsvYJllBf

— Andrew Tadlock (@andytadlock) February 2, 2016

But in Sanders's eyes, the dead heat left him the big winner of the night. "Tonight we accomplished what the corporate media and political establishment once believed was impossible: after trailing Hillary Clinton in Iowa throughout this entire campaign, it looks as if we will leave the state with roughly the same number of delegates," he wrote to supporters.

It was clear what events in Iowa signified, he said. "Tonight's result is a victory for our political revolution."

The results now stand at 49.9 percent to Clinton and 49.5 percent to Sanders.

1:45am: Democrats Still in Virtual Dead Heat

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders remained in a virtual dead heat in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with less than one percent of precincts yet to report their figures to the state party.

Clinton leads Sanders by .2 of a percentage point, with the two essentially tied at 50 percent in the caucuses, according to the official state tally. The Associated Press predicted Monday that Clinton would leave Iowa with 22 delegates to the national convention, to Sanders' 21.

Both candidates are casting the night as victory, with Clinton telling supporters she was "breathing a big sigh of relief," while Sanders emphasized that a tie is enough to kick off his revolution.

The two Democrats now head to New Hampshire, assuming they avoid a predicted snowstorm slated to begin in Iowa sometime early this morning, where the next contest begins just a week from today. Recent polling shows Sanders with a substantial lead in that state.

12:50am: Hillary Clinton Wins It All -- When It Comes to Coin Tosses

The Des Moines Register reports two fascinating things early this morning: One, that coin tosses are used to declare a winner in some undecided caucuses in Iowa, including at least three on Monday night. You can see an incredible video of one of the deciding coin tosses here:

This is how the #IowaCaucus works. A tie is solved tossing a coin @HillaryClinton wins pic.twitter.com/yZDTUKFJXQ

— Fernando Peinado (@FernandoPeinado) February 2, 2016

And secondly, that those coins don't appear to Feel the Bern. Hillary Clinton won all three of the coin tosses, earning herself additional delegates in Ames, Davenport and Des Moines.

12am: Democrats Might Be Waiting a While…

With the Republican race in Iowa now over, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are caught in a dead heat that doesn't seem headed to a resolution any time soon.

Ninety-four percent of caucuses are now reporting and Clinton leads Sanders by two-tenths of a percentage point.

But even with the race uncalled, Clinton took the stage anyway just after 11:30pm, causing the major networks to pull away from Cruz's victory speech to focus on the former Secretary of State. Clinton took the stage with her husband and pregnant daughter, Chelsea, to uproarious shouting from supporters, who waved signs and chanted: "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

"What a night! What an unbelievable night! What a great campaign!" Clinton told supporters.

Meanwhile, at Sanders HQ, someone put Clinton's speech on the giant screens set up around the room in order to rile up the crowd, eliciting a deafening "boo" from Sanders supporters. At one point during her remarks, Clinton said "I am a progressive," causing the crowd at Sanders HQ to yell even louder.

"No you're not," one woman in her 70s screamed from the floor. "You Liar!"

Soon after, people on the floor started chanting "Bernie, Bernie, Bernie."

Even though final results have yet to come in, the atmosphere at Sanders' rally remained festive. Sanders supporters were dancing and waving signs in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn, Des Moines, late into the evening, before Sanders took the stage just after midnight. "It looks like we are in a virtual tie," he told the crowd, before being interrupted by cheers.

"It looks like we'll have about half of the Iowa delegates," Sanders added, congratulating Clinton on a tie game.

10:40pm: It's Cruz!

Sen. Ted Cruz will carry the Iowa caucuses.

The announcement was met with loud booing from Donald Trump's election night party in Des Moines and chants of "We want Ted!" at Cruz's rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Cruz lead Trump by 28-24 percent. Polling had shown a tightening race between the two candidates in recent weeks, but consistently gave Trump a slight edge.

Trump conceded the race in a brief speech just before 11 pm, arguing that at the beginning of his campaign people told him that he couldn't even place in the top 10 in the state -- much less the second-place finish he pulled out on Monday. Trump had kind words for Cruz, as well as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who dropped out of the race not long before Trump took the stage. Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, has not yet endorsed an opponent, but attended a Trump rally last week.

Sen. Marco Rubio is poised for a strong third-place finish in Iowa, coming in just a single point behind Trump with 23 percent of the vote and almost all of hte votes counted. Dr. Ben Carson, who is taking a short respite from the trail and will return to campaigning on Wednesday, will finish in a distant fourth place in Iowa with 9 percent and Sen. Rand Paul finishes off the top five with 5 percent.

"This year, there are five tickets out of Iowa. And there's no doubt Rand holds one," Paul spokesman Doug Stafford said in a statement Monday night.

Kevin Johnson, of Carlisle, IA, and Terry Johnson, of Des Moines, celebrate Cruz's victory. Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News.

Veterans Kevin Johnson, 52, and Terry Johnson, 67, celebrated Cruz's victory at his campaign party Monday night. Both said that they support Cruz because of his strong conservative values.

"Right to life, national defense, the second amendment," are all areas where Cruz is strong, said Kevin.

Cruz's experience with the Supreme Court as a former solicitor general, added Terry, is especially important as the next president will have the opportunity to pick new Supreme Court Justices.

Cruz, says Kevin, has the personality to lead the country. While all the Republican candidates have "a little of everything" he supports, Cruz has "more of everything," he said.

Terry believes that the next president will have to bring the country together, and Cruz is the man to make the right compromises.

10:15pm - "Move!" Bernie supporters try to corral more voters at the last minute

Voting in the Iowa caucuses is pretty physical — people have to go stand with their candidate's supporters, literally "caucusing" together. And the Sanders supporters pictured here at Drake University were doing precisely that: Getting people to go stand in the spot that would indicate their vote for Bernie.

10:05 pm - Predictions from Mr. English

With 70 percent of precincts reporting the mood is festive among people at Cruz HQ: Their man is ahead. According to a young supporter, he'll end up winning with an even bigger margin than he has now.

"Cruz 30, Trump 22, Rubio 19," says Wyatt English, a 17-year old resident of Altoona. His father works for the campaign and he himself has been a volunteer for Cruz for over a year, although he'll be too young to vote in November.

For English, it's Cruz or bust. If his guy isn't the Republican nominee he doubts he'll volunteer for another candidate, citing character concerns with other contenders. Like for many other supporters here tonight, right to life is priority #1 for him.

10:00pm: **BREAKING: O'Malley to Suspend Campaign**

In a move that won't surprise many in the Democratic Party, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is set to announce that he will be suspending his campaign at his caucus party tonight at Wooly's in Des Moines, according to a source close to the campaign. He is likely to speak at 10:30pm EST.

"In a tough, unprecedented year, O'Malley spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate and remained the most accessible," the source said. "He ran an energetic and honorable campaign - leading the field with the most bold progressive policy proposals, and he successfully pushed the other candidates on gun safety, immigration, and climate policy."

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story indicated that multiple sources claimed that O'Malley will exit the race this evening.

9:55pm: "Badass Guy From Texas"

Ethan Richardson, 19, from Altoona in Iowa, decided to get involved with the Cruz campaign after attending a religious liberty rally.

"When I saw what his faith stood for," said Richardson, "I became a huge fan."

Before that rally he already viewed Cruz favorably — he saw him as a "badass guy from Texas following the constitution"

Christian principles guide Richardson's politics. He does not support gay marriage, and describes abortion as a "second holocaust." To be a good president, he says, you must be a good Christian.

Ethan Richardson. Photo by Olivia Becker / VICE News

9:30pm: Ex-Liberal Leads Caucus for Cruz

Adam Horning, once a self-proclaimed "big liberal," was the precinct chair for Sen. Ted Cruz at Precinct 73 in Polk County, which covers Des Moines, tonight. Which means he gave the speech to try to convince about 100 of his neighbors to vote for Cruz.

"Let's send a message to Washington that in Iowa we still believe in our state motto," Horning said, concluding his 3-minute pitch to his fellow caucus-goers, "that our liberties we prize and our rights we shall maintain." Horning sat down to wild applause.

As the votes were being counted, Horning explained how he became passionate about Cruz. He said that he used to lean far-left and probably would have even caucused for Sen. Bernie Sanders if he was running in 2004. But after becoming an evangelical Christian around 2007, getting married and having three children, he found himself drawn to conservative politics. "Cruz is the most principled, consistent conservative we have," he remarked. "Simple."

Cruz's main rival in the Iowa contest tonight, Donald Trump, did not have a precinct captain of his own at Horning's precinct and when the final votes were tallied, Cruz trounced him, 65 votes to 34.

Adam Horning. Photo by Olivia Becker / VICE News

9:15pm: Cramming Them In

Turnout is bursting at a Democratic Caucus on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines. Volunteers said they expected 75-100 Iowans to turnout at Precinct 038 tonight, but 485 students and local residents are now crammed in a sweaty basement auditorium to log their votes.

8:45pm: Meanwhile at Bernie's Caucus Party…

As Iowans gather at school cafeterias, fire stations, and more than 1,600 other caucusing locations across the state, the Holiday Inn near Des Moines airport is abuzz with preparations for Bernie Sanders's caucus night party. Campaign staff, who are staying at the hotel, glide briskly in and out of the ballroom, where, hundreds of supporters, media, and campaign volunteers have begun to arrive to await the results of the first election contest in 2016.

Meanwhile, some hotel guests at the bar and reception look bemusedly at reporters and camera crews as they hurry past with equipment balanced on their shoulders. A married couple — Marco Rubio supporters — watch the fuss with grins. Karen and Marty Brennan, from Lansing in far northeast Iowa, are waylaid by a cancelled flight, due to a mechanical fault. An impending snowstorm might keep the two Republicans marooned here for the night, in a hotel chock-full of Democrats.

Marty Brennan, who owns a small construction company that builds bridges, said he doesn't usually caucus, but since he's stranded in a hotel with nothing else to do, he wouldn't mind. Except that no one can caucus out of their precinct, so he and his wife are stuck watching the votes roll in on the TV behind the bar, with a plate of Buffalo wings, and rubbernecking the comings and goings.

Karen and Marty Brennan at the Holiday Inn at Des Moines Airport. Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News

8:45pm: For this college Republican, social issues are a sidebar

Logan Kentner, 20, is the President of Drake College Republicans, and a wavering Ted Cruz supporter. "Economic policy is definitely the most important issue. I think anybody that tells you that social policies are more important to them is absurd. If someone marries another man, that doesn't have any effect on my life. If somebody has an abortion that doesn't necessarily have an effect on my life. I think it's a generational thing."

Logan Kentner. Photo and reporting by Claire Ward / VICE News

8:30pm: Getting Fresh Clothes

After CNN reported this evening that Dr. Ben Carson would skip New Hampshire and South Carolina and instead head home to Florida, the neurosurgeon's campaign has come up with an interesting response:

.@RealBenCarson will be going to Florida to get fresh clothes b4 heading back out on the campaign trail. Not standing down.

— Jason Osborne (@Jmrhosborne) February 2, 2016

Osborne, Carson's senior communications strategist, seemed to like the line, tweeting the same "fresh clothes" reasoning just moments later. But this time, Osborne added that Carson needed to leave Iowa before a winter storm strikes later this evening in addition to getting some clean duds.

.@RealBenCarson leaving Des Moines later tonight to avoid storm. Not suspending -- getting fresh clothes then back out Wednesday

— Jason Osborne (@Jmrhosborne) February 2, 2016

Luckily, Osborne later tweeted at CNN reporters Chris Moody and Jake Tapper, who initially reported that Carson was heading to Florida, a freshly-clothed Carson will return to the trail on Wednesday.

.@jaketapper @RealBenCarson @moody Dr Carson has been on the road for 17 days needs fresh clothes. Back on the trail by Wednesday

— Jason Osborne (@Jmrhosborne) February 2, 2016

**8pm: From Malaysia to Iowa, "Just here to observe" **

Atikah Aziz, 21, is an international student from Malaysia observing the Democratic caucus at Drake University. What draws her to watch Iowans caucus for their candidates? "I heard people will discuss the candidates and attempt to persuade others." Back home, she said, campaigns are based less on the personality of actual candidates: "In Malaysia, it's between parties. I think this is better because you get to really have confidence in who you choose to be the president."

Malaysian student Atikah Aziz. Photo by Claire Ward / VICE News

Unlike Aziz, Terrance Montgomery, 19, is a US citizen and therefore can vote. But he doesn't know for whom yet. An actuarial science major from Inglewood on the south side of Chicago. Montgomery is caucusing undecided tonight. Asked what will sway him, he says whoever has the best policies on healthcare. "I know a lot of people who are unemployed in my home city who can't afford healthcare for themselves and I don't want them to die.".

Terrance Montgomery. Photo and reporting by Claire Ward / VICE News

7:50pm: So long Iowa! Hello New Hampshire!

Though caucusing hasn't even begun in Iowa, a few of the 2016 competitors have already moved on. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have already jetted off to New Hampshire, where all three so-called "establishment" candidates stand a greater -- if not much greater -- chances of victory than they do in Iowa tonight. The final Des Moines Register poll released this week, widely seen as one of the most reliable surveys of the state, showed all three candidates struggling, with Christie earning 3 percent of the vote to Bush's and Kasich's two percent.

All three candidates are faring much more favorably in typically establishment-friendly New Hampshire, where Bush and Kasich have both cracked the low double-digits according to Real Clear Politics' average of the polls there. Christie, meanwhile, stands just under 7 percent.

7:30pm: Four caucus-goers tell VICE News what's behind their choice of candidate

From a first-time caucus-goer who plans to vote Jeb to a Hillary supporter going to her eighth caucus, and from a Cruz supporter to a voter who feels the Bern, Iowans who plan to go vote tonight tell us what's behind their choice of candidate.

7:24pm: **O'Malley heads into the caucuses fighting**

Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News

Martin O'Malley had a busy schedule ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Monday. The former Maryland governor started with an 8:30am media availability in Des Moines, followed by a lunchtime town hall in Ames, and then conducted a final canvass shift launch back at his Des Moines field office just three hours before caucusgoers start arriving at locations in all 1,681 precincts across Iowa at 7pm.

Despite such energetic effort over the course of his campaign, O'Malley has struggled to bring his polling numbers above 2 to 3 percent. Nevertheless, the speech he delivered at the field office was upbeat.

Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News

"When I got into this race many months ago, it was without any illusions that this wasn't a tough fight — and you know what? The tough fights are the ones worth fighting!" he boomed at the crowd from atop a chair. "In a few hours the people of Iowa will be making up their mind, and in a few hours it'll be the people in Iowa who get to decide the course of this race. And I'm excited!"

As he spoke, O'Malley's three kids — Grace, 24, Tara, 23, and Will, 18 — snuck into the office after a long day campaigning on behalf of their dad separately in three different cities. The O'Malley children have been on the road in Iowa since Friday to root for their father. He'll be holding his caucus night party at Wooly's, a downtown music venue.

7pm: **Caucusing for the GOP because Obama let him down** Lloyd James, 80, from Des Moines, is a former truck driver who is voting Republican for the first time. "I used to vote Democrat," he says, "but it's time for change." When asked if he voted for Obama, Lloyd said: "Twice, unfortunately." Tonight he is caucusing for Trump. "Trump's my man!" Why? "We need to close the borders. I don't have a problem with them, they're hard workers, but they gotta come legally."

Photo by Claire Ward/VICE News 

5:10pm**: Iowan pro-lifers call for anyone but Trump**

A group of Iowa pro-life activists are urging Republican caucusgoers to support anyone other than Donald Trump tonight, saying in a public statement that he "cannot be trusted" on the issue of "defending unborn children and protecting women from the violence of abortion."

The open letter was signed by 10 members of prominent pro-life organizations, including Iowa Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, and the Susan B. Anthony List.

"America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women," the letter reads. "We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either. Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate."

Kendra Burger, Iowa Right to Life's director of educational outreach, said she signed the letter because she opposed Trump's recent statements about being able to shoot someone in the middle of street and still win the Republican nomination.

"Our pro-life movement is one of love and compassion and mercy," Burger said. "I just don't think he represents that."

Instead, Burger said she would caucus for Rand Paul tonight.

2:30pm: The Hotel of Strange Bedfellows

The Embassy Suites Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, has turned into a de facto political hub, with several candidates staying there — and sometimes, that means reporters get treated to unusual sights. For example, bumping into Rick Santorum right outside of a Jeb Bush event. (Santorum is, technically, still a candidate for president, although he's polling at 1 percent.)

Just walked out of @JebBush event and almost physically ran into @RickSantorum @vicenews #IowaCaucus pic.twitter.com/AnaARU5qh5

— Olivia Becker (@obecker928) February 1, 2016

1pm: "We will win tonight if turnout is high": Sanders makes his final push

Bernie Sanders made his last pitch in front of a group of volunteers during a surprise visit to his Iowa campaign headquarters in Des Moines on Monday morning.

The brief appearance came just a few short hours before the caucuses will start around 7pm in the Hawkeye State. Joined by his wife Jane and a gaggle of supporters, the senator thanked his campaign volunteers who "made it all possible."

A few short weeks ago, the senator trailed up to 50 percentage points behind Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in some polls, but the latest surveys put Sanders neck-and-neck with his rival.

"We have come a long, long way in the last nine months," he said to cheers. "There was a poll out today, it had us a little bit ahead, a poll out the other day had Secretary Clinton a little bit ahead, we've got a tied ball game, that's where we are."

Sanders said he has held some 100 town meetings and rallies across Iowa in the lead-up to caucus night that has brought in an estimated 70,000 people in total. He said he was especially heartened to have the support of young people and those who have not previously been involved in the political process, and encouraged volunteers to get out and to try and get more people to the first round of caucusing.

"What every poll tells us and what every political pundit understands is… we will win tonight if the voter turnout is high," Sanders said. "We will struggle tonight is the voter turnout is low. So what our job is today is to make sure we have the highest voter turnout possible. That happens, we win. Let's go get 'em."

Bernie Sanders makes a final push at his Iowa campaign headquarters with his wife, Jane. Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News

12:45pm: Empty seats at Jeb Bush event in Des Moines

Lots of empty seats at the Jeb! event on caucus day. @vicenews #IowaCaucus pic.twitter.com/HRyAjDtS1Y

— Olivia Becker (@obecker928) February 1, 2016

9am: Berning Shirt Sales for Savvy Salesman

Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally at Grand View University, Des Moines on Sunday, January 30. (Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News)

When entering and leaving a Bernie Sanders rally anywhere in America, you will invariably hear the slogan "Hats, buttons, t-shirts — feel the Bern!" shouted over and over by the cadre of merchandise salesmen trailing the Vermont Senator as he busses across the country.

It is the mantra of the entrepreneur who saw Bernie Sanders's potential — if only on the face of a button — when pundits were still insisting he was unelectable. Shawn Jenkins, who is originally from Columbia, South Carolina, has trailed the senator from state to state for six months. In that time, Jenkins says he has been to more places (on his own dime) than he can remember, including Massachusetts, Alabama, New Hampshire, and to Iowa several times.

Denny Darwin, left, and Shawn Jenkins, right, are traveling merchandise salesman who have followed Bernie Sanders around the country for the last six months. (Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News)

"Some places have more potential than others for sales," he said. "Iowa typically does not. We sell the most in places he hasn't been to a lot — like Minnesota last week. He's been to Iowa so many times, so there's not a big market here."

The merchandise men travel separately, but often run into each other at various campaign events across America. Shawn travels with his uncle, Denny Darwin, who had his own set-up across the entrance path from his nephew at a Sanders rally at Grand View University in Des Moines, on Sunday night.

"Anything that says 'feel the Bern' sells well — the people like that," Jenkins said. "He's the coolest old guy we know."

9am, Monday, February 1: "Trump Begs For Our Big Caucus."

The first thing you see when you walk into the Raygun store in east Des Moines is a table with a sign on it that says "shirts for out of town media." Piled on it are t-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers emblazoned with sarcastic puns about the Iowa caucuses that are, you guessed it, targeted for all of the out of towner journalists that have descended on Des Moines this weekend.

Next to the table are mannequins dressed with shirts that "Rock Out With Your Caucus out" and "Iowa: For Some Reason You Have to Come Here To Be President". Another rack nearby has more shirts that read "Trump Begs For Our Big Caucus."

During non-caucus season, Raygun mostly sells clothing to Des Moines' lefty hipster crowd, which the store's manager Taylor Frame insists is alive and growing. But outside of Des Moines, Raygun has become relatively famous for their punny caucus-themed merchandise that they have sold for the past three presidential elections.

"We like to think of ourselves as Urban Outfitters meets the Onion meets Prairie Home Companion," said Frame. Raygun also has locations in Kansas City and Iowa City, although the Des Moines store is their headquarters.

The caucus items do well every year but Frame says this current election has boosted Raygun's sales more than ever. "The candidates' personalities make it a lot easier to come up with the content," he said.

Frame says the store sells about two hundred "Rock Out With Your Caucus Out" shirts per week. Other popular items include male boxers with "Iowa Caucuses: Rising to the occasion" written on the crotch and a t-shirt that reads "Raygun: We Made America Great in the First Place!"

Although none of the candidates themselves have come into the store during this election, campaign staffers and celebrities are frequent patrons, says Frame. The band Vampire Weekend, actress Jamie Lee Curtis and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards have all come into the store in recent days.

And then of course, there have been the members of the media. Dozens of reporters have come in and out of the store in the past few days but surprisingly Frame says, "they usually keep it pretty low key."

5:15pm, Sunday, January 31: Why One Navy Veteran Plans to Caucus for Clinton

Monica Pullmann plans to spend part of her 64th birthday tomorrow caucusing for the first time. Pullmann, a veteran aircraft mechanic for the Navy, has never caucused or voted in her life, but this year, she has stepped up and volunteered as a precinct captain in one of Iowa's caucus locations in Council Bluffs, located about a two-hour drive west of Des Moines.

"I've never voted before because I haven't ever felt like I had a passion, or reason to," she said on the sidelines of a Hillary Clinton rally Sunday. "But I'm registered now and I'll be there tomorrow with bells on — and we're making cupcakes!"

Pullmann said that while she knew many veterans who are planning on Monday to caucus for Bernie Sanders, who is on the Senate's Committee on Veterans Affairs, she became a fervent Clinton supporter after seeing the former secretary of state testify before the Benghazi investigative panel late last year.

"She held her own for hours and hours," she said. "I was so impressed with that."

Veterans at a Hillary Clinton rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News)

Pullmann added that she also has "a lot of veteran friends who are so on the other side of the fence, and it scares me… Donald Trump doesn't know when to shut up — well, neither do I, but at least I try not to insult people."

As the crowd jostled into the rally hall Sunday afternoon, Pullman shuffled to a position near the stump. Standing around her were at least five other veterans who arrived separately to the event at Abraham Lincoln High School. Also in the throng was Pullmann's daughter, who is currently in the military and pregnant. Pullmann said that as a soon-to-be grandmother for a second time, she can relate on a different level to the former secretary of state. Clinton was introduced Sunday by her daughter, Chelsea, who is also currently pregnant.

"I'm having a new grandchild and I think the world would be better if she has an opportunity," Pullman said. "I was a single mother, and raising my daughter I was so scared all the time because I couldn't afford medical care once I left the military.

"I also love how much [Hillary Clinton's] husband supports her," she added. "I wish someone would support me like that."

4:45pm, Sunday, January 31: Trump Haters and Supporters Gather in Council Bluffs

Donald Trump held a rally on Sunday in Council Bluffs, Iowa with evangelical icon Jerry Falwell Jr. Two hours before the event even started, the line of people waiting to get inside was already snaked around the corner of the venue. A small group of about a dozen protesters on the other side of the parking lot held signs that read "Dump Trump," and "I'm not afraid of Megyn Kelly," a reference to the Fox News anchor whose feud with Trump prompted the candidate to skip the last Republican debate.

The crowd two hours before doors opened. Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

 Misty protesting outside the Trump event. She plans to caucus for Bernie Sanders on Monday. Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

Many of the actual attendees at the event did not come with a plan to caucus for Trump tomorrow. Shelly, a 60-year-old funeral home worker, said she was unsure if she would have the time to caucus tomorrow but still wanted to hear Trump's pitch.

Shelly came to the rally undecided, but left saying she would caucus for Trump. Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

After the rally ended, we caught up with Shelly to see if she had been swayed. She said she was pretty sure she was going to caucus for Trump. Just how sure?

"98 percent sure," she said. "Trump is the guy."

Many others came from other states to see Trump just because they were curious — or because they actively disliked him.

Wes Farno drove from Ohio with his 17-year-old son to see the various political candidates while they were in Iowa. He is a registered Republican, self-declared "political junkie," and firmly anti-Trump.

"I used to be proud to be a Republican," Farno remarked quietly, as he glanced onstage at Trump. "But I don't tell people I'm a Republican now." He wasn't sure he'd vote for Trump as the Republican nominee. "I'd struggle with it," he said.

Outside the trump rally — Olivia Becker (@obecker928)January 31, 2016

The Adele song "Rolling in the Deep" blared over the speakers while the crowd, which was almost uniformly white, waited for Trump, who was late, to show up. Once he arrived, several vocal supporters made sure Trump felt welcome in the Hawkeye State.

At one point during Trump's speech, as he reflected on the latest poll numbers showing his first place lead yet again, a man interrupted to scream, "You got Iowa!"

"Ivanka is 8.5 months pregnant. Wouldn't it be great if she gave birth in Iowa?" Says @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/33Varvv5KP

— Olivia Becker (@obecker928) January 31, 2016

At one point, Trump brought his daughter Ivanka, who is eight and a half months pregnant, onto the stage. "Wouldn't it be great if she gave birth here in Iowa!?" he asked to cheers from the crowd

Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

Later, somebody else interrupted to yell "I love you Donald Trump!"

Trump smiled and responded, "I love you too."

3:50pm, Sunday, January 31: 'The Bachelor' Endorses Chris Christie — Sort Of

He was the most popular corn farmer at the bar.

Chris Soules, an Iowan who grows soybeans and corn, but is better known as "The Bachelor" from the 19th season of the reality TV series of the same name, barely had time to sip his whiskey on Saturday night in between fans shuffling up to ask him to pose for photos at Kung Fu Tap & Taco, a dive bar in Des Moines.

When one woman in her 50s asked the 34-year-old Soules about his plans for the week, he said would caucus with the rest of Iowa on Monday.

"I really don't like Trump's message, and Cruz is just as bad," he said while flubbing a shot at the bar's billiards table. "Chris Christie is the best candidate, but realistically he probably won't get in. So Rubio is the only other option."

Christie, who is polling in sixth place in the Republican race, would have probably balked if he'd heard the heartbreaking declaration. The New Jersey governor had touted Soules' declaration of support two days ago, tweeting a picture of the pair in rosier times.

Grt 2 have IA's — Chris Christie (@ChrisChristie)January 29, 2016

Despite the latest polls indicating that just 1 percent of Iowans think Christie would be the strongest candidate in the November general election, Soules said he believes that the governor could probably do a better job than the rest of the GOP field. He just doesn't think Christie will get the chance.

12:20pm, Sunday, January 31: Feeling the Bern

Bernie Sanders campaign headquarters is located in a strip mall in downtown Des Moines, but the atmosphere could not have been more different compared to the offices of the Republican candidates. About 50 volunteers and staffers were spilling out of the doorway, music was playing, and homemade "Feel the Bern" posters were plastered on the windows.

Inside, a large room full of volunteers — spanning from teenagers to 60-something hippies — was busy making calls, eating pizza, and giggling on their laptops. A wave of volunteers had just come back from canvassing and another crowd was about to leave.

One volunteer, Yosef, age 31, described his attraction to Sanders as similar to using the online dating app OkCupid. "I was swiping, swiping, swiping and I came across Bernie and it was like a 98 percent match," he said laughing. "I totally swiped right on Bernie."

Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

Four other teen volunteers, who had driven to Des Moines from Kansas City, Missouri, nodded emphatically in agreement.

"People are angry and frustrated," said a volunteer named Kermit, 68. "Donald Trump appeals to the darker side of people. But Bernie Sanders is inspiring and appeals to people's better judgement."

Eric, 30, is a first-time caucus-goer and precinct captain for Sanders. His job on Monday, he explained, will be to corral people to Bernie's corner in the caucus room, hand out supplies, and generally ensure that every supporter he's called in the previous weeks turns out on the cold evening. He was optimistic about Sanders' chances.

"Every young person I know [around here] is in favor of Bernie," Eric said.

The nature of the caucus process requires a well-organized ground operation to not only reach out to undecided voters, but make sure supporters actually go out and caucus for three hours on Monday. The Sanders operation in Des Moines, which was clearly in full effect this weekend, seemed intent on reaching every Democrat in the surrounding counties in order to do just that.

12pm, Sunday, January 31: Visiting the Trump, Rubio, and Cruz Campaign HQs

Ted Cruz's campaign headquarters in Des Moines is located in a dingy strip mall 20 minutes away from anything that could be described as "downtown." When we pulled up outside the office on Saturday, three 30-somethings wearing Cruz-emblazoned hoodies and fleeces smiled at us and held the front door open.

Inside, about 50-75 volunteers were busy making calls, filling out paperwork, and excitedly milling about. The ages varied widely — there were boys no older than 11 or 12 on the phone next to grandmothers printing out voter data. But the friendliness ended soon after we walked in. Cruz's communications manager jumped up from her desk as soon as she saw us and hurriedly ushered us out, explaining she didn't "appreciate drop-ins." After 10 minutes of cajoling, we finally left, much to her obvious relief.

Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

Fifteen minutes down the road we pulled into another strip mall, this one slightly more upscale, to visit Trump HQ. There were "Make America Great Again" signs everywhere and half a dozen 20-something white bros wearing Trump sweatshirts chatting outside. They did not look pleased to see us. We walked through the front door and were immediately met by six staffers — all male except for one. It quickly became clear that their sole purpose was to fend off journalists. They did not let us past reception. One man, who introduced himself as Bob but declined to give his last name, told us we did not have prior authorization to enter and motioned toward the door.

Next up, was Marco Rubio's office in Des Moines, which was more welcoming but a much smaller operation than Trump's or Cruz's. Inside the small office were about a dozen volunteers quietly making calls.

One volunteer named Alex Richmond, 25, said he has made somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 cold calls to voters since he joined the campaign in the fall. "Iowa's been the experience of a lifetime," he said, after he hung up the phone.

Photo by Michael Hopper/VICE News

Jordan Russell, the spokesperson for Rubio's Iowa campaign operation, was visibly exhausted, yet optimistic about Rubio's chances in the general election. We spoke for about an hour before the latest state poll numbers were released, which showed Rubio in third place behind Trump and Cruz.

"[Republicans] need to be about adding people to our party and bringing people in, not turning people off to our party," Russell said, unfazed by his candidate's current standing in the polls. "Marco has an ability to appeal to all factions of the party."

6:00pm, Saturday, **January 30: Last Iowa Poll Before Caucuses Released**

With just 48 hours to go until the Iowa caucuses, the race remains as close as ever for both the Democrats and Republicans, according to the latest Iowa Poll numbers released this evening.

In the Democratic race, 45 percent of likely Democratic voters nominated Hillary Clinton as their first choice, compared with 42 who chose Bernie Sanders as their favorite, according to the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll. Martin O'Malley, who has yet to emerge from the single digits this election cycle, got just 3 percent.

The Republican race is also tight. Donald Trump is currently holding on to his frontrunner status, with 28 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers saying he was their first choice for president. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz came in second with 23 percent. Marco Rubio remains in third place with 15 points, followed by Ben Carson at 10.

Although more voters picked Trump over Cruz as their number one choice for the presidency, the poll also showed that voters thought Cruz had the "greatest depth of knowledge and experience" of all the candidates. "The drill-down shows, if anything, stronger alignment with Cruz than Trump, except for the horse race," Ann Selzer, the famed pollster who conducted the survey, told the Des Moines Register.

Selzer's Iowa Poll is widely seen as the most reliable survey of voters ahead of the first contest of the primary season. The same poll accurately predicted Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama's victories in the state in 2008 and Rick Santorum's Iowa win in 2012. Tonight's results, which were released at 5:45pm local time, are the last Iowa Poll numbers to be released before the caucuses by the Register.

**4:50 pm, Saturday, January 30: Stopping by Bernie HQ **

We just stopped by all the campaign HQs in — Olivia Becker (@obecker928)January 31, 2016

Hanging out with some more Bernie Bros at Sanders HQ— Olivia Becker (@obecker928)January 31, 2016

4:30pm, Saturday, January 30: Canvassing From Tokyo to Des Moines

Motoo Unno has canvassed in three states, knocked on more than 4,400 doors, and been chased by two dogs for the Democrats — and he can't even vote in the US. Unno, a professor of cross-cultural communication at Tokyo's Meiji University, has flown to Des Moines, Iowa four times in the last year to study the American electoral process, and especially door-to-door canvassing, which is prohibited in Japan under election law.

"In Japan, my students think canvassing is under the table, bribes," Unno told VICE News on the sidelines of a Saturday afternoon event for Hillary Clinton. "But in the US, it's communication, people use their persuasion skills. That's a new prospect for Japanese youth."

For several years, Unno has spent tens of thousands of dollars and all of his holidays and sabbatical canvassing in US elections. In 2011, he campaigned for Barack Obama. This time, Unno is convinced Clinton will take the Oval Office.

Motoo Unno, a professor in cross-cultural communication at Tokyo's Meiji University, has campaigned in the last two US presidential elections. He relays US electioneering styles and techniques to his students back home to teach them about canvassing, which is illegal in Japan. Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News

"Clinton will protect Obama's executive actions, and will also protect the middle class," he said, assuming the canned phrasing of a politician. "In Japan I can see the same phenomena; the rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle class is being squeezed."

Yet despite his enthusiasm for US politics, Unno says there is one candidate for whom he wouldn't risk a dog bite or spend hours canvassing. "Donald Trump is a threat to cross-cultural communication," he said, shaking his head.

Unno said that he intends to bring his experiences canvassing in the US back home to his some 800 students in Tokyo. He also strives to help energize low voter turnout at elections among youth in Japan, where only 38 percent of people in their 20s voted in the last national election.

"My dream is to change election law and see many young people canvassing in Japan," he said. "I want them to feel energized by politics."

3:45pm, Saturday, January 30: Hillary Tries to Best Bernie On Gun Control

Hillary Clinton scored two major campaign points this morning: An ardent endorsement from the New York Times editorial board, and a photo-op and glowing speech made by prominent gun control campaigners Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly.

Giffords, a former Democratic representative from Arizona, spoke first at a rally at Iowa State University in Ames, and later helped kick off a canvassing drive for Clinton in Des Moines. The 45-year-old congresswoman survived being shot in the head five years ago by a gunman who killed six others outside a Tucson supermarket.

"She will stand up to the gun lobby," Giffords said of Clinton in an emotional speech in Ames. "Speaking is hard for me, but come January I want to say these two words: Madame President."

Gabby Giffords smiles at husband Mark Kelly at a Hillary Clinton event in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Liz Fields/VICE News

Since the shooting, Giffords and her astronaut husband Kelly have been vocal on gun control — a topic that has become one of the most significant issues and points of contention this election cycle. It also became one of the key points of differentiation between Clinton and her rival Bernie Sanders early in the race.

Clinton has been especially quick to use Sanders's votes against tougher gun restrictions against him in recent months, while portraying herself as a chief enemy of the National Rifle Association. But Sanders, who once voted in favor of granting legal immunity for gun manufacturers in 2005, fought this month to buffer Clinton's criticisms by declaring he would now support a bill to repeal that legislation.

Gabby Giffords, who survived gun attack massacre canvassing for Hillary Clinton in Iowa with husband Mark Kelly — Liz Fields (@lianzifields)January 30, 2016

The former secretary of state has now enlisted Giffords and Kelly in the fight. Together, the couple co-founded the non-profit group Americans for Responsible Solutions, which encourages elected officials to take action on violence and enact gun control measures.

9:40am, Saturday, January 30: Sanders Hits Milestone for Campaign Contributions

Bernie Sanders' meteoric rise reached a milestone three days out from the caucuses, when his campaign hit more than 3 million unique contributions before midnight on Friday.

"Every contribution made to our campaign sends a message that we can defeat the billionaire class in this election," said Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager in Iowa for Sanders, in an email to supporters.

The Vermont senator has proudly trumpeted his large grassroots support and the fact he has continued to meet and surpass fundraising goals, largely without the help of super PACs. The campaign bought in $75 million in 2015, including $33 million that was raised in the last three months of the year.

By comparison, President Barack Obama, who ran a remarkable 2008 grassroots fundraising effort, only managed to reach the 1 million mark in individual donations by the time of the Iowa caucuses. His re-election campaign garnered 2.2 million donations by the end of 2011.

Thursday, January 28:** How They **Watch the Republican Debate in **Waukee**

Members of the Dallas County GOP watch the Republican presidential debate at Mickey's Irish Pub on January 28, 2016 in Waukee, Iowa. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Thursday, January 28: **A Trump-less** Republican debate in **Des Moines **

Four days before caucus night, candidates for the GOP nomination battled it out without frontrunner Donald Trump, who bowed out of the crucial forum over a spat with Fox News and host Megyn Kelly. Yet, the Donald proved he could still dominate conversation despite his absence.

Great Twitter poll- and I wasn't even there. Thank you! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)January 29, 2016

Here's an excerpt from our recap of the event:

Thursday was Cruz's last chance in a major public forum make his pitch to Iowa voters before they caucus on Monday. … The Fox moderators pummeled Cruz over his stance opposing ethanol subsidies in Iowa, flip-flopping in the Senate, and even directly questioned him whether he would hurt the Republican Party in later elections if he became the nominee.

… Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is currently trailing behind Trump and Cruz in third place in the polls, joined the anti-Cruz pile-on … Rubio did not emerge from the night unscathed, especially when he was asked about his position favoring a pathway to citizenship program for undocumented immigrants.

… Rand Paul, on the other hand, emerged as the crowd favorite of the night. The Kentucky senator had been relegated to the kiddie-table debate last time, which he boycotted, but was back on the main stage tonight.

Read more here.

Confused about the caucuses? We put together to guide you through the complicated process.** Read more here**.

Related: The Iowa Caucuses Are a Week Away — Here's What You Should Know

Wednesday, January 27: Rubio Rolls Into West Des Moines

The sun sets as Marco Rubio's campaign bus stops for an event in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

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