The 2016 U.S. presidential race can be difficult to keep up with. As important primaries and caucuses swiftly approach there is a lot to follow -- but we've got you covered with an easy recap of the buzz-worthy stories people were talking about and the more meaningful moments you might have missed.
SEE MORE: COMPLETE 2016 ELECTION COVERAGE FROM AOL.com
This week the Iowa caucuses kicked off voting for the 2016 election. We saw everything from a tremendous upset and a historically close race. We've compiled a list of the stories that everyone is talking about as well as the stories that matter the most to help you navigate the 2016 election. See what you may have missed below.
See images from the MSNBC Democratic debate:
What everyone's talking about:
In the closest Iowa Democratic caucus in history, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won by a slim margin against U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Clinton prevailed by only four delegates, according to party officials. While Clinton celebrated her win Monday night, Sanders declared the result a "virtual tie." The results of this race put pressure on Clinton to glean support away from Sanders.
On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz beat out real-estate mogul Donald Trump in the Monday-night Iowa caucuses. Although most polls had given Trump the edge heading into the caucuses, Cruz lead the GOP pack with 28 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent for Trump and 23 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio. Cruz's win and Rubio's strong showing could dent the momentum for front-runner Donald Trump.
While some candidates had unexpected wins in Iowa, quite a few took the ultimate loss, dropping out of the race for the White House. Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley began the string of dropouts as he suddenly ended his campaign after disappointing returns in Iowa, leaving Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to vie for the Democratic nomination head to head. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee soon followed suit, marking his second unsuccessful run for president. Next, the libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul suspended his 2016 presidential bid after failing to gain traction with voters. Finally, Rick Santorum withdrew from the race, endorsing Marco Rubio and narrowing the Republican field to eight contenders.
Ted Cruz's win in Iowa didn't come without controversy. Dr. Ben Carson's campaign accused Sen. Ted Cruz's team of convincing caucus-goers he was out of the race. Ted Cruz released a statement apologizing to Carson and admitting that his campaign took a CNN story about Carson heading to Florida as news that the neurosurgeon was dropping out. This apology didn't stop Cruz's main rival Donald Trump from unleashing a tweetstorm attack on Cruz and threatening to sue him for "illegally" stealing the win.
After Martin O'Malley's departure from the 2016 race to the White House, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debated one-on-one for the first time on Thursday night. The debate featured Clinton getting angry, Sanders brushing off Caucuses controversy and plenty of Wall Street talk. Despite heated moments, the debate ended on a high note. When Clinton was asked whether she would consider uniting the party by picking Sanders as her running mate, she responded saying, "The first person I would call" would be Bernie Sanders.
What you might have missed:
While many Republican candidates struggled to secure votes in Iowa, Marco Rubio's campaign gained momentum resulting in his strong showing in Iowa.The Republican senator scored many key endorsements this week coming from South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Rick Santorum. Rubio's growing number of endorsements and strong showing in Iowa support his case that he's the only viable Republican alternative to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Donald Trump set the Internet ablaze this week, but this time it wasn't for a tweet. A photo that can best be described as odd emerged of "The Donald" and his daughter Ivanka. It shows Donald with his then 15-year-old daughter sitting on his lap and cradling his face atop of two parrot statues that are spitting water from their beaks and appear to be doing a lot more than that. Take a look at the photo here and prepare to feel extremely awkward.
Bernie Sanders had a lot to be happy about this week. After his "virtual tie" with Hillary Clinton in Iowa, it was revealed that he raised $5 million more than his rival in January. This "win" is significant as the $20 million raised by Sanders last month was fueled by grassroots support from small donors. Even more good news for Sanders came as he closed a 30-point gap with the former secretary of state to almost tie her in a new national survey published this week. The poll found Clinton leading Sanders among national Democratic-primary voters, 44 percent to 42 percent. In December the same poll found Clinton leading 61 percent to 30 percent nationally over Sanders.
While Bernie Sanders has much to celebrate, the opposite could be said of Donald Trump. Not only did Ted Cruz beat him out in Iowa, Trump's poll numbers also took a nosedive in the first national survey after Iowa. Although he remains on top, the gap between Trump, Cruz and Rubio is becoming more narrow, threatening Trump's chances of easily securing the Republican nomination.
During Thursday night's debate, fireworks started and the crowd erupted into a series of boos after Sanders criticized Clinton for taking money from Super PACs and insinuating that Clinton is an "establishment candidate." She then punched back, complaining about his attacks. "I think it's time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks," she told Sanders directly.
On Tuesday, February 9, New Hampshire voters head to the polls for the first primary in the nation. We'll have all the coverage you need right here on AOL.com.