Clinton tries to bowl over Iowa as Sanders surges
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at a bowling alley in Adel, Iowa on January 27, 2016 (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop at an Iowa bowling alley Wednesday, a must in this US state that will kick off the presidential nominations process next week.

But the Democrat -- who leads her party nationally in the race for the White House -- didn't actually go bowling.

Instead, she sought to convince potential voters she was a better pick than surging rival Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist urging a "political revolution" in America.

Clinton's pitch in the town of Adel came as a new poll showed Sanders leading Clinton by four percentage points among likely Democrat participants in Monday's much-anticipated Iowa caucuses.

The Quinnipiac University poll showed the former secretary of state at 45 percent with Sanders, a senator from Vermont, nudging ahead with 49 percent.

Only two percent of Democrats say they are undecided, but 19 percent of those who expressed a preference said they could still change their minds, according to the poll.

Sanders is also making further inroads among younger people, grabbing 78 percent of support among the 18-44 group, the poll said. Clinton, in contrast, largely dominates those older than 45, a group that encompasses most voters.

Clinton, speaking to dozens of Democrats at the bowling alley, often mentioned Sanders by name, saying the two had the same aims in fighting abuse by Wall Street or boosting the number of Americans who have health insurance.

"Senator Sanders and I share the same goal, we both want universal coverage," she said of her health care plan.

But she added: "He has a different idea, and I fear it would lead to gridlock, not action."

As for big banks, "me and my opponents agree and are clear on this: we are not going to let Wall Street wreck Main Street again," Clinton added.

"Where we differ: "I don't think that's enough."

As Clinton campaigned in Iowa, Sanders met President Barack Obama at the White House, several days after the US leader had some high praise for the former first lady, describing her in an interview as ready to govern from day one.

While Obama is unlikely to formally endorse a Democrat before he votes in the Illinois primary in March, his comments seemed to tip the scales in Clinton's favor.

Sanders didn't seem to think so.

"I think he and the vice president have tried to be fair and even-handed in the process, and I expect this would remain to be so," Sanders told reporters after the encounter.

Sanders also said he could win the caucuses -- if many people are mobilized.

"I think what the Iowa campaign ends up being about is one word, and that is turnout," he said. "If there is a large turnout, I think we win."