GLENWOOD, Iowa — At the Bella Terre Vineyard reception hall, they knew they were going to get more GOP caucusgoers than last time.
So they put out tables for 200 people. They ended up needing enough for 300.
It’s a frustration with the status quo that spurred so many people out to the caucuses Monday, said Mills County Republican Party Chairman John Yates. The 302 who showed up Monday night nearly doubled the 161 participants the northern Mills County precinct saw in 2012. Four years earlier, Yates said, it saw 120.
“It’s the year of the outsider,” Yates said as voters filed in from a line that stretched to the parking lot of the Bella Terre Vineyard. “The Republican Party has let them down. They want an outsider.”
In the end, the site mirrored the state as a whole. Ted Cruz, a GOP senator from Texas who has often clashed with the party establishment, got the most votes at this site, with 74. Billionaire Donald Trump came in second, with 68. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came in third, with 65. Rounding out the candidates: Ben Carson got 53 votes; Rand Paul, 14; Rick Santorum, 12; Carly Fiorina, 7; Jeb Bush and John Kasich, 2; Chris Christie, 1.
Two candidates got no votes Monday night. One was former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. The other was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 caucuses.
“I’m surprised he didn’t do very well,” Yates said. “I’m very surprised he didn’t garner a single vote this time around.”
The votes were made on small pieces of paper and collected in coffee cans before being taken away to be counted.
“With this group of candidates, minus one or two, I feel we have a very strong group to go against Bernie (Sanders) or Hillary (Clinton), said Vince Salerno, who spoke on Santorum’s behalf before the voting.
About 70 miles north, the Democratic caucus in Dunlap, Iowa, started in the Bull Pen Diner but moved into the livestock auction ring when not all of the 80 people could find seats at the long tables.
A distinct smell of cow manure hung in the air and trains rumbled in the distance as people settled into plastic orange chairs at the Dunlap Livestock Auction to pick from among the three candidates running for the Democratic nomination.
At 7:03 p.m., Barney Murphy, 62, of Dunlap silenced the crowd and began reading the instructions. The former mayor and vice chairman of the Harrison County Democrats was wearing a white baseball hat that Hillary and former President Bill Clinton had both autographed with black marker.
“We’re first in the country,” Murphy said about the caucus before it began. “We love it. Besides, Iowa is God’s country.”
Letters from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were read to the crowd. Then it was Martin O’Malley’s turn.
“Are there any Martin O’Malley supporters here?”
Walter Schaben, 18, raised his hand.
“Oh, good,” Murphy said. “You can read the letter.”
Schaben was participating in his first caucus. The Dunlap native had never been eligible to vote before but said he was out Monday night because he believes voting is “the most privileged right we have as Americans.”
In past elections, Tim Grady, 65, supported former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich. But Monday night Grady was vocal about his support for Sanders.
“We Bernie people are the real conservatives,” Grady said, while standing next to an art easel he made from materials he found in a dumpster.
He traded arguments and ideas with Clinton supporters Monday night.
Sanders supporters cheered when Walter Schaben switched from O’Malley.
In the end, the former secretary of state eked out a win, taking five of the nine available delegates. Sanders took four.
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First time caucusing, at 80
Michal Bilsland of Sheldon, Iowa, is 80 years old and said she planned to caucus for the first time Monday night. She moved to Iowa 10 years ago from Wisconsin.
“People are fed up with every politician,” she said at a recent rally for Republican Donald Trump in Sioux Center. “They say things, and then they don’t do it.”
Bilsland was leaning toward supporting Republican Ben Carson but was seeing Trump for the first time.
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Couple evaluate differently
Bob and Charlene Nelson of Belmond, Iowa, don’t see political candidates the same way.
Charlene said she looks closely at the candidates’ stances on issues and their experience.
“They have to have some experience,” she said. “I just can’t see anybody walking in on a political position like this and not understanding the whole body of what it entails.”
That’s where Bob differs with his wife.
“I don’t want any of those people. I want somebody that has some business sense. Everything is just so out of control,” he said.
Both planned to participate in their local Republican caucus Monday night.
The Nelsons had attended a recent town hall in Glenwood featuring Ben Carson. The main reason they drove about 200 miles from Belmond, however, wasn’t to see Carson.
Their granddaughter, Maeve Bittle, 17, a senior at Glenwood Community High School, sang the national anthem to open the event.
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Looking for ‘not a politician’
Three first-time voters were among the early arrivals at the Donald Trump rally in West Des Moines on Monday night.
All caucused for Trump and have been supporters for a few months.
Shanon Gustafson and Whitney Trembly said their precinct was at St. Boniface Church in Waukee, Iowa.
Gustafson, 25, admitted that she didn’t follow politics before this year’s election. Her dad is a veteran, and she said she liked Trump’s support for veterans and ideas on how to balance the budget.
“It’s about time that someone decided to run (who’s) not a politician, not perfect,” Gustafson said. “He’s normal, like everyone else.”
Brad Caudle, 31, of West Des Moines, also is a first-time voter and said he supported Trump.
“He seemed like a true candidate that can get things done,” Caudle said.
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On his final day of campaigning in Iowa, Donald Trump hit all the old favorites.
He insulted his enemies — and didn’t have any of the old politician’s pretense that it pained him. “He’s a good debater,” Trump said of his top rival here, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “But he’s a bad talker.”
Trump even brought up old insults, just to savor them again. “Did any phrase ever hit a human being like ‘low energy’ hit Jeb?” Trump said, savoring his famous takedown of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
He flirted with a kind of violent rhetoric that’s unusual for a major-party campaign. “I said, ‘Get ‘em out here ... Beat the hell out of him, I don’t care,’” Trump said later in Cedar Rapids, recalling how he’d dealt with another protester at a rally earlier in the race.
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Clinton brings doughnuts
Hillary Clinton sought to bolster a group of 60 volunteers in her south Des Moines office by dropping by Monday morning — accompanied by her daughter, Chelsea — with glazed doughnuts and coffee.
“I had to stop by and tell you how much I appreciate your hard work,” Clinton told them, before taking a few selfies, signing some books and taking a picture with two young women. “I thought I’d bring you some unhealthy snacks!”
Former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Clinton supporter, said in Des Moines that the former secretary of state “has a tremendous organization, better than even Obama had.”
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Sanders fan opts for cookies
Mike Michaels of Council Bluffs, a Perkins restaurant manager, planned to bring cookies to his Democratic caucus to entice people to join the Bernie Sanders group Monday night.
Michaels is a Sanders precinct captain. His caucus site was Hoover Elementary School.
Michaels said he and others made telephone calls and knocked on doors for months on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidate.
Michaels, 35, first caucused at age 18 for Democrat Howard Dean. He caucused for Barack Obama eight years ago.
“Now I’m here because Bernie Sanders is going to fix everything,” he said.
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Hopefuls eye weather
The campaigns were anxiously keeping an eye on the weather Monday — and not just because of concern about caucus turnout. The candidates were worried about how it might affect their rush out of Iowa.
Republican John Kasich was already in New Hampshire on Monday, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush following behind Monday afternoon, hours before the caucuses started.
The three had a light footprint in Iowa. They are banking instead on strong showings in New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 primary to jump-start their White House bids.
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Branstad boosts Bush
When he was governor of Florida, Jeb Bush cut the size of government and brought jobs to his state, Iowa’s GOP governor, Terry Branstad, said Monday.
Branstad appeared with Bush at a town hall in Des Moines.
“He took Florida from being near the bottom when it comes to educational achievement to today fourth-graders in Florida have higher achievement in reading than we do in Iowa,” Branstad told the hundreds who packed the room. “That’s how good he did.”
Branstad has not endorsed a candidate, although he has criticized Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for his stance on the federal renewable fuel mandate.
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Road doesn’t end in Iowa
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted Monday that the road to the presidency starts in Iowa — it doesn’t end there.
“There is no wasted vote (Monday night) if you are voting for someone who you believe in your heart and your mind is the best person to be president,” Christie told an audience of about 70 people at a lunch meeting of the Bull Moose Club in Des Moines.
This report includes material from the Washington Post and the Associated Press.