COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Hillary Clinton shouted. Bernie Sanders sang. And both rolled across this rural state to make their cases to voters.
Iowans backing Clinton stood in a line that snaked around a high school in this Missouri River town for one last chance to see a person many of them hope will be the first female president.
“She’s got everything,” said Tracy Chaplin, 44, who came two hours early to see Clinton and planned to caucus for her Monday night. And, most important, she added: “She’s the most electable.”
Iowa’s Democrats were debating who is more likely to win in November as they consider the pragmatism of Clinton and the idealism of Sanders.
The race is a statistical dead heat, according to a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released Saturday evening. It showed Clinton with support from 45 percent of likely caucusgoers and Sanders with support from 42 percent. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who is also seeking the nomination, trailed with 3 percent.
“Everybody agrees this is a tossup caucus,” Sanders told supporters packed into a field office on Marshalltown Sunday. “If there is a low voter turnout we’ll probably lose.”
To boost enthusiasm Sanders swung through the college towns where his candidacy has caught fire and was greeted by thousands. On Saturday night in Iowa City — home to the University of Iowa — Sanders climbed on stage with the band Vampire Weekend and swayed back and forth to the music as he joined in singing, “This Land is Your Land.”
For the Vermont senator, the stakes in Iowa are high. A victory here would shatter the sense of inevitability around Clinton’s campaign and give him a big burst of momentum heading to next week’s primary vote in New Hampshire, which is friendly territory for him.
Though only 44 delegates are up for grabs in the Democratic contest on Monday — or 1.09 percent of the total — Iowa will be the first test of whether student-filled crowds and sheer enthusiasm will translate into votes.
It will also be a test of organization, where Clinton appears to have the edge. At least a dozen volunteers who came to see her Sunday at a high school in Council Bluffs will be caucus captains for her on Monday.
They included Rand Christiansen, 61, who has seen her in person four times since she started her campaign in April. “She has the depth and breadth of experience,” he said.
Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother at the event, thrilling the crowd. “I couldn’t imagine a better grandmother for my children,” she said. “But I also couldn’t imagine a better president than my mom.”
Clinton spoke at the top of her voice, which sounded hoarse from leading a slew of rallies over the weekend. She asked the crowd of about 500 “to stand up for someone who can be president and commander in chief and take the fight to the Republicans.”
She acknowledged that Sanders is delivering a message of change that people want to hear. She spelled out her different approach.
“I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver,” Clinton yelled into the microphone. “I’d rather underpromise and overdeliver.”
Before hitting the campaign trail Sunday, both candidates appeared on the morning political TV shows. Clinton faced questions about whether she jeopardized sensitive information when she used a private e-mail account to conduct government business.
The State Department, complying with a court order, released another batch of Clinton’s e-mails on Friday, and 22 of them were excluded because they contained information now deemed top secret.
“It was not the best choice,” Clinton said, appearing from Iowa on ABC’s “This Week.” She said that she didn’t send or receive any material that was marked classified at the time, and acknowledged that the timing of release wasn’t ideal.
“I wouldn’t be here talking to you about it,” she said. “I’d be talking about what people in Iowa are talking to me about.”
Clinton tried to liken the interest in her computer server to another controversial chapter of her time as secretary of state: the September 2012 attack on a US compound in Libya.
“This is very much like Benghazi,” Clinton said. “The Republicans are going to continue to use it, beat up on me. I understand that. That’s the way they are.”
Sanders, interviewed on the same show, pointed out that the situation is dogging Clinton.
“Look at the front pages today in terms of what Secretary Clinton is getting slapped with,” Sanders said.
The Sanders campaign boasted that it raised $20 million in the month of January. The campaign pulled in $33.6 million in the last three months of 2015.
That kind of cash means Sanders will be able to compete with Clinton well after the first few primary states, no matter how well he performs Monday.