(STARTRIBUNE) — ALTOONA, Iowa — Soft laughter rippled through the audience in an Iowa church meeting room when a woman punctuated her question to the keynote speaker, Bernie Sanders, with, "when you're president."
The reaction was a gentle acknowledgment that the Vermont senator, whose self-described socialist positions appeal to the hardest-core liberals, is a long shot for the Oval Office.
Yet while Democrats and Republicans are waiting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jeb Bush and other major prospects to formally kick off the 2016 race in the state with the first presidential caucuses, other lesser known or more unlikely aspirants are already active in Iowa, letting everyone know they're available.
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They're following a long-established ritual, based on the notion that even far-fetched dreams can come true in a place where friendly people will come out to hear candidates and the media is ever alert for political tremors.