Hillary Clinton’s quest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 was supposed to be a coronation, not a conflagration.Now, however, the former secretary of state finds herself in Iowa just days before the first-in-the nation caucuses, trying to extinguish an insurgent campaign by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that seems to be spreading like wildfire.While Mrs Clinton has spent the past year building a campaign infrastructure that she hopes will carry her to success in Iowa and beyond, Mr Sanders has become a fundraising powerhouse, thanks to passionate grass-roots support.The Clinton camp may have had a head start on organising Iowans to support her in Monday’s caucuses, but the Sanders campaign is pouring its newfound resources into the state in hopes that a win here – and in New Hampshire next week – will vault him into a national lead and position him to prevail in a fight for the nomination that could drag on for months.The pitched battle between the two candidates was on full display on Friday night, as they held rallies mere blocks from each other in Davenport, Iowa.
Although they drew similarly sized crowds of about 1,000 people in this modest-sized city on the banks of the Mississippi River, it was a clear contrast in styles.Outside an old-fashioned dance hall, Sanders loyalists lined the street, waving homemade signs, posing with a life-sized cutout of their candidate and cheering as passing cars honked their support. “I’m so excited to change the world,” said Selina Vickers, a social worker who drove 11 hours from Fayette County, West Virginia, to help with the get-out-the-vote effort. “I’ve never been inspired like this.”Mrs Clinton’s backers – a relatively older crowd – were more restrained as they waited to enter their auditorium a few hours later. No car horns, no cheering – just a long line to get through a door guarded by Secret Service officers.Inside the venues, the Sanders fans chatted and chanted, as John Lennon’s Power to the People blasted over the loudspeakers. Mrs Clinton had a live country band, which closed with Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA – a patriotic ballad that was a staple of Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns.