NORTH LIBERTY (Iowa) • Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton has urged Iowa voters to choose her experience over the idealism of rival Bernie Sanders, who made the rounds of university campuses at the weekend to earn student support.
"I know some of you are still shopping. I'd like to shop too. I hope during the course of this afternoon to convince some of you," Mrs Clinton on Sunday told about 600 people packed into an elementary school gym in the town of North Liberty.
On Feb 1, voters in Iowa, in the American heartland, will cast the first ballots in the United States presidential nominations process - a long road to Election Day on Nov 8.
Mrs Clinton, the 68-year-old former secretary of state, and Mr Sanders, a 74-year-old senator from Vermont, are running neck and neck in some opinion polls, though Mrs Clinton enjoys a wide advantage on a nationwide basis.
"As secretary of state, she stared down some of the toughest dictators in the world, and so I have no doubt that she can take on the Tea Party and the gun lobby," said Ms Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, the influential US women's healthcare provider. "She never blinks, she never wavers."
The message Mrs Clinton and her team sought to drive home was that her proposals are more realistic than those of Mr Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who has put taking down the financial elite and Wall Street at the heart of his campaign.
He has repeatedly attacked Mrs Clinton over what he says are her close ties to some big banks, and has chastised her for giving paid speeches to Wall Street firms.
But Mrs Clinton fought back on Sunday.
"I have taken on Wall Street for years," she said.
"I have a better plan to do it.
"No bank is too big to fail, and no executive is too big to jail."
She also insisted on her foreign policy bona fides and the "very specific steps" she would take to defeat terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Mrs Clinton devoted a long section of her stump speech to her role in the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011, which several of President Barack Obama's aides considered to be too dangerous and risky.
She said she encouraged the President to go ahead with it.
But Mr Sanders' idealism has charmed some Democratic voters.
In a speech at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Mr Sanders hammered home his call for a "political revolution", recalling how at first, he was deemed a "fringe candidate" - not a serious challenger to Mrs Clinton.
"Well, my friends, a lot has happened in nine months," he said.
In an effort to assuage any doubts about voting for him in November, Mr Sanders offered up poll data suggesting he could beat Republican front runner Donald Trump in the general election by a wider margin than Mrs Clinton would.
Mr Trump is not usually a candidate who invokes the words of evangelical voters, but on Sunday he went to church in eastern Iowa, where he studied "humility", he later told attendees at a rally.
Mr Trump sat for the entire service, which lasted over an hour, at First Presbyterian Church, accompanied by Ms Deborah Whitaker, whose son was killed in an accident shortly after returning from a tour of duty.
"I have more humility than people think," he said, telling a handful of reporters he enjoyed the service.
"It is crunch time, folks," Mr Trump said.
"I mean, I wanna win Iowa. I really wanna win it."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES