Remember that Iowa, the first state to decide, has a history of springing surprises

Remember that Iowa, the first state to decide, has a history of springing surprises

Here’s odds-on Democratic favourite Howard Dean in 2004

How will Trump cope with the caucus hurdle?

We’ve got just seven weeks to wait until the first US voters start making their choices in the 2016 White House race. As has become the custom since 1972 the first state to express a choice is Iowa with its caucuses.

Here, instead of going to a polling station like in the states that have full primaries, interested voters attend separate party meetings in 1,682 different precincts across the state. These are held in a range of venues from schools, church halls and even ordinary homes. What makes them very distinctive is that people get together in their locality and talk about the choices before them. They have to be there at a specific time and stay for the full length of the meeting.

A challenge for the pollsters is that only a small proportion of the state’s electorate actually take part and the ones with the best record are those most able to identify and record the view of caucus attendees.

    Based on past performance there is one poll that stands out – the one carried out by the Des Moines Register. Four years ago it highlighted the late swing to Rick Santorum in the GOP race who eventually went on to win.

Back in 2004 the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, had commanding national poll leads in the Democratic race and was a very tight odds-on favourite to secure the nomination. Then came the Iowa caucuses and his response at losing, seen in the clip above, effectively saw the end of his well-funded effort.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton threw a huge amount of effort into this first contest and ended up behind Obama so ending the apparent certainty that she had of being the nominee.

UPDATE – Looks like bad Iowa poll for Trump out tonight

Mike Smithson

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