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Iowans cast votes in first-in-the-nation caucuses

MASON CITY, Iowa — With the Republican caucuses about to begin, Meredith Dinsdale was still making up her mind.

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GOP caucus-goers register Monday at the Mason City High School.

MASON CITY, Iowa — With the Republican caucuses about to begin, Meredith Dinsdale was still making up her mind.

The first-time caucus-goer was torn between two candidates — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New York real estate mogul Donald Trump. Of all the candidates, she said those are the two she believes she can trust.

"I don't feel like they lie and tell us what we want to hear. I feel like they are going to act on what they say," the 35-year-old Hy-Vee worker said.

Plenty of other Republicans gathered at Mason City High School on Monday night were unsure as they prepared to cast their votes. Stan Quinn said he was leaning toward Texas Sen.Ted Cruz but was still undecided. Why Cruz?

"I think he is the absolute most conservative candidate, and I also believe he is the most spiritual," the 56-year-old said.


One thing Quinn was sure of — Monday night's GOP caucus turnout was the biggest he had seen in his 20 years in Iowa. The lines to register for the caucuses snaked outside the front entrance of the high school. Campaign signs greeted visitors as they walked toward the building, which was shrouded in a thick fog.

Lifelong Democrat Kathy McCarthy showed up at the GOP event to cast her first-ever vote for a Republican. The 55-year-old Walmart employee said she liked some of the candidates who have been lower in the polls, like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. McCarthy said she was considering throwing her support behind Cruz instead. Ultimately, she said she is willing to vote for any Republican on the ballot over a Democrat this year because of her frustration with the direction the country is headed in.

"When you are on a train that is derailing, you jump off it. It only makes sense," McCarthy said.

Clinton, Sanders supporters fight for votes

Democrats also turned out in force at Lincoln Intermediate school in Mason City. In a school gymnasium, Democrats in Ward 3, Precinct 3, showed their support for a candidate by scooting their chairs to one of the corners of the room. One corner was decorated with campaign signs for former Secretary of State Clinton, one for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and another for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. A handful of undecided voters convened in the remaining corner. With less than a handful of people showing up for O'Malley, it soon became clear the candidate would not meet the required 15 percent of votes for viability. As a result, Clinton and Sanders supporters quickly got to work wooing the O'Malley voters and the undecideds over to their corner. The effort included plenty of encouraging waves, cheering and, in some cases, taunting of the other side, with one Sanders supporter yelling, "A vote for Hillary is a vote for Wall Street."

In the end, the 18 delegates up for grabs were divided evenly between Clinton and Sanders.

Heidi Berg was among those backing Clinton. Sporting a Clinton campaign sticker, Berg said she believes the former secretary of state is best equipped to run the country. She is particularly impressed by Clinton's foreign policy experience and her commitment to improve mental health care in the country.

"Hillary has way more experience, I think, than Bernie," the 41-year-old social worker said.


Matt Marquardt walked from his house to the Democratic caucus to cast his ballot for Sanders.

"I'm an anti-Wall Street person. I think they have destroyed America," he said.

Marquardt said he doesn't vote by party but rather for the candidate. He said his second choice would be another political outsider — Trump. He said he likes the New Yorker's tell-it-like-it-is approach.

"I like his bombastic style," he said. "I like the way he hits people over the head with what he thinks and feels."

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