CEDAR FALLS, IOWA —
Although the November 2016 presidential election is over a year and half away, campaigning to choose party nominees is already underway in Iowa - a key state because it holds a party caucus early in the election season.
Though Cedar Falls, Iowa has a population just over 40,000, right now it is the epicenter of the race for the White House. Republican party presidential hopefuls are pressing the flesh (shaking hands with people) and answering voters' questions on issues ranging from immigration reform to marriage equality.
“My biggest concern as a voter is that America has to come back to God," said Linda Morris.
Republican voter Linda Morris was among a group attending a breakfast with candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
“We have gone down the wrong path for the last eight years," she said.
Conservative voter Curtis Bartlett agrees. He wants a president that can reverse escalating racial tensions in America.
“I don’t understand why whites and blacks can’t get together and sit down and talk over what one person wants, the other person wants too," said Bartlett.
Bartlett’s list of concerns also includes the debate over same-sex marriage.
It’s an issue that attracted dozens of protestors outside Cedar Falls High School. Inside, Huckabee joined fellow presidential hopeful former Senator Rick Santorum on stage to speak with conservative voters who oppose same-sex marriage.
“I don’t think it’s that big of an issue," said Lynn Brant.
As a Democrat, Lynn Brant supports same-sex marriage. In his party, the leading presidential contender is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also visited Cedar Falls to interact with potential supporters.
“It looks like Hillary might be a shoo-in, but I hope not. I hope that there is a debate that she will have to defend herself and the Democrats will have a choice," said Brant.
Iowa matters for these candidates because it is the first state to hold an election, called a caucus. The results can either boost or sink aspirations for the White House early in an election year depending on who wins or loses.
For Republicans this year, Iowa is the place where they can build name recognition and momentum ahead of the caucus. But the growing field of candidates all vying for attention and campaign funding concerns Curtis Bartlett.
“Because are you going to wipe out somebody who could be a good candidate right away because they can’t get the finances?" Asked Bartlett.
More finances means more advertising, and in an election expected to break all previous records for money spent, every dollar counts.