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US presidential hopefuls Sanders, Biden in tight race in early primary states

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US Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden appear locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as both campaigned in Iowa on Sunday with only days left until the first contest.

[FORT DODGE] US Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden appear locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as both campaigned in Iowa on Sunday with only days left until the first contest.

New polling released on Sunday showed Mr Sanders leading in New Hampshire and tied with Mr Biden in Iowa, the first two states to weigh in the Democratic primary. Gaining momentum at the right time has historically been key to helping a candidate secure the nomination.

A poll of Iowa voters by CBS found Mr Sanders and Mr Biden statistically tied, with 26 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was within striking distance at 22 per cent.

Mr Biden led with 25 per cent in separate poll of Iowa voters by Suffolk University/USA Today Network Poll released on Sunday evening. Mr Sanders registered second at 19 per cent, followed by Mr Buttigieg at 18 per cent.

Mr Sanders led a poll released on Sunday of New Hampshire voters with 25 per cent support. His closest competitor was Mr Biden, with 16 per cent, according to a poll by cable network CNN and the University of New Hampshire.

A national Washington Post-ABC poll released on Sunday found Mr Biden in the lead with 32 per cent support, followed by Mr Sanders at 23 per cent. US Senator Elizabeth Warren received 12 per cent, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was at 8 per cent.

Mr Sanders' recent rise in polling appears to be the product of consolidating the liberal wing of the party. Mr Biden has remained at the top of the pack, but appears to be struggling to consolidate the more-centrist wing of his party.

Mr Biden is making the pitch that he is more likely to beat Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

Kelly Walsh, 53, a nurse in Marshalltown, Iowa, attended a Sanders rally on Saturday, with her two teenage sons. She likes both Mr Biden and Mr Sanders.

"I want somebody that can definitely beat Trump so I kind of like Joe Biden," she said, drawing a disapproving look from her 15-year-old, Hayden.

She agrees with most of Mr Sanders' platform, especially his government-run healthcare plan, but worries it would put off moderates.

"If I knew Bernie could do it and he didn't scare everybody else, I'd be 100 per cent," she said.

US Representative Cindy Axne, who represents a district in Iowa and endorsed Mr Biden, said she does not want Iowa to help nominate a candidate who cannot beat Mr Trump.

"We don't want to make a bad decision," she told Reuters at an event for Mr Biden.

Candidates struggling to still build traction are facing crunch time. US Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is still trying to break 10 per cent in polls, picked up the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. The largest publication in the state, the historically conservative editorial page has previously had more influence in Republican primaries.

REUTERS