ALISON STEWART: Presidential candidates are rallying supporters to turn out at tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses, the first votes that count in the 2016 race.
The final Des Moines Register poll, released last night, shows the first choice of likely Republican caucus-goers is Donald Trump with 28 percent. Ted Cruz has 23 percent, Marco Rubio 15 percent, Ben Carson 10 percent, Rand Paul 5 percent, and Chris Christie 3 percent. Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina are at 2 percent, along with the past two caucus winners, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.
On the Democrats’ side, Hillary Clinton is the first choice of 45 percent of likely caucus-goers, and Bernie Sanders is favored by 42 percent. Martin O’Malley is at 3 percent.
Today, the candidates made their final appeals to Iowa voters. In his first time on the ballot, businessman Donald Trump is as confident as he is brash.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Candidate: We have to get out there and caucus and do all of the things that we have to do, or we have all wasted our time, folks.
ALISON STEWART: Texas Senator Ted Cruz hopes Iowa’s white evangelicals help him close the gap with Trump.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Presidential Candidate: Six weeks ago, everyone was shooting at Trump. Now all the Republican candidates are shooting at me.
ALISON STEWART: Florida Senator Marco Rubio says he is more electable in November than either Trump or Cruz.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Presidential Candidate: I know that I am the candidate that can best, most quickly unify the party, unify the conservative movement, and grow it.
ALISON STEWART: Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton positions herself as the rightful heir to President Obama, as a former member of his Cabinet.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: I don’t think President Obama gets the credit he deserves for making sure we didn’t fall into a great depression.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ALISON STEWART: Clinton campaigned with mass shooting survivor former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to argue her record on gun safety is stronger than Bernie Sanders’.
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), Former U.S. Congresswoman: Come January, I want to say these two words: Madame President.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ALISON STEWART: The Vermont senator is counting on the youth vote to close his gap with Clinton.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Presidential Candidate: How would you like to make the pundits look dumb on election night?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ALISON STEWART: Sanders is also selling himself as the most committed to tackling income inequality.
Our own Judy Woodruff is on the campaign trail, and, once again, she joins us from Des Moines.
So, Judy, of likely Republican caucus-goers, 47 percent self-identify as evangelical or born-again Christian. In 2012 and 2008, that led Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to victory, but those gentlemen are nowhere near front-runners in 2016.
So, what effect will religious conservatives have, possibly, on tomorrow’s results?
JUDY WOODRUFF: The last go-round, evangelicals were 57 percent of the Republican caucus turnout, which is significant.
This time, they’re showing under 50 percent. But the bottom line is, evangelicals will have a huge impact on the result. Will they be determinative terms of, is it going to be the person who has most of the evangelical vote? Probably.
But there are Republicans in the state who don’t self-identity that way. And they will play a role as well. And, by the way, Donald Trump at this point is coming in second among evangelicals. Ted Cruz is garnering most of their vote, but Donald Trump is doing — is holding his own. And he’s doing far better than Cruz among those who are not evangelicals.
ALISON STEWART: Well, speaking of Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz, they are clearly the front-runners. And they’re on one tier.
The rest of the field, there is just a group. They’re middling, let’s say. Out of that group, out of that field, who can afford not to win big tomorrow?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nobody wants to come in with 2 percent of the vote, which is, frankly, what that poll that I — we have been discussing is showing, that several of these candidates are all running at just 2, 3 percent. It’s not good for them.
And I know the argument is made, well, you can come in fourth or fifth in Iowa and go on, but history shows, if you don’t come in somewhere in the top three, you’re going to have a tough time.
That’s one reason Marco Rubio is working so hard, not only to pull out his vote, but to begin to persuade people supporting the other so-called mainstream candidates, like Crist Christie, like Jeb Bush, like John Kasich, that those folks shouldn’t — quote — “waste their vote” and they should come on over and support Marco Rubio.
But we will see how that works out tomorrow night.
ALISON STEWART: On the Democrats’ side, Clinton and Sanders are running neck and neck. However, Hillary Clinton pulls ahead in voters 65 and older.
Given past caucuses, what does that bode for tomorrow?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, older voters traditionally do turn out more faithfully on caucus night. It’s just part of their DNA, you might say. They have been going to caucus for years. And they will likely do that on Monday night, barring something unforeseen. So, that should help Hillary Clinton.
What Bernie Sanders is counting on, though, is that first-time caucus-goers, younger caucus-goers, are going to be turning out in big, enthusiastic numbers for him. So far, Hillary Clinton’s people are pretty confident they’re going to be OK, but you can bet that they’re — that they’re watching the Sanders turnout a lot.
ALISON STEWART: Judy Woodruff, thanks, as always.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s great to talk to you.