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Which GOP hopeful has the edge going into the Iowa Caucus?

On Feb. 1 of this year, the 2016 presidential election will finally begin, and the first real votes will be cast, bringing the country one step closer toward two final candidates. Iowa is the first state to hold voting for party primaries, and candidates are campaigning especially hard to walk away with a big win.

Republican presidential hopefuls are touring the state to garner support for February's primary, and Real Clear Politics reported that online surveys show that folks in Iowa aren't as sold on Donald Trump as the rest of the country. A loss could be trouble for Trump, and for that reason, all eyes are on the Hawkeye State.

Why is Iowa so important?
According to the Huffington Post, Iowa is unique because it holds caucuses. Instead of just going to the polls to vote, communities come together and discuss issues and candidates. Entire precincts try to come to a consensus and vote for just one presidential hopeful. 

In fact, the precinct votes aren't even the end of the line. From there, each county in Iowa holds a convention to make sense of the caucus votes and finalize support for an individual candidate. For that reason, it can take weeks or months for Iowa to fully endorse a presidential candidate.

Having said that, there is still plenty at stake for February's initial caucuses. As FiveThirtyEight reported, many Americans have only just begun to tune into the election. That means that many potential voters don't yet have a solid opinion or allegiance to any one candidate, and winning Iowa could be a great first impression, especially for presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie who currently trail far behind in the polls.

As for front-runners like Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, a win in Iowa would bring more momentum and another talking point moving forward. There are three more primaries set for the GOP in February before things really get going in March, according to U.S. Presidential Election News. 

Who's in front?
The latest polls from Real Clear Politics have Cruz leading Trump by 3.5 points in Iowa with less than a month to go before the primary. Cruz has a big following from Evangelicals in Iowa, according to The Hill, and the religious voters in the state are very politically active. In online surveys, 31 percent of Republicans in the Hawkeye State stated they would vote for Ted Cruz. Trump, meanwhile, polls at around 27 percent.

On the national level, Trump still holds a healthy lead over all other candidates, though Cruz has been trending up outside of Iowa as well. Real Clear Politics reported that in nationwide polling, Trump is favored by 35 percent of Republicans. Cruz comes in second, but at just 19 percent. Marco Rubio is polling in third with 11.5 percent of the vote, while candidates like Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are all struggling to earn national recognition. 

It will be interesting to see which presidential hopeful walks away a winner in Iowa and how that result shapes the rest of the election process.

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