On Monday February 1, the much anticipated Iowa presidential caucus will take place. For the Republicans, they say it is now a three men race between real estate mogul Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. If one were to base an Iowa prediction purely on the polls, Trump is still currently the winner with a Real Clear Politics Average of 30.8 vs. Cruz at 24.5% and Rubio at 14.5%. The gap between Trump and Cruz is a little narrower in the most recent poll, The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll, which has Trump at 28% with only a 5 point lead over Cruz at 23% and a 13 point lead over Rubio who is at 15%.
If Trump is clearly leading in the polls, why are we even talking about Cruz and Rubio? Here is the situation. Apparently, Cruz has invested far more time and money in Iowa than Trump or for that matter Rubio. A recent Monmouth University Poll demonstrated that “Cruz is leading Trump by a 28% to 23% margin among registered Republicans who have a history of voting in state primaries.” On the other hand, “ Trump performs better among registered Republicans who are general election voters” and is currently polling at 44% among registered Republicans who are general election voters and at 50% among “registered independents who say that they will attend their local Republican caucus” on February 1. (http://www.weeklystandard.com/iowa-poll-trump-takes-caucus-lead/article/2000770)
But the Monmouth University Poll was taken before the January 28 Fox News Debate in Des Moines where Cruz by most accounts had a bad night. The former Princeton University debate champion had several weak moments including his opening where he took a potshot at Trump who was absent from the debate because he was upset about the way Fox News had recently treated him. In lieu of attending the debate, Trump hosted a fundraiser in Des Moines for the veterans. Cruz’s other weak moment was when he attempted to tell a joke about how the moderators were directing all the other candidates to attack him. Unfortunately, the joke fell flat and elicited a response from moderator Chris Wallace, who reminded Cruz not to be surprised by tough questions for, after all, they were participating in a debate.
As for Rubio, who had a strong debate performance, while he may be ten points behind Cruz and 16 points behind Trump in the Iowa race, he is still a formidable candidate. The theory is that if Rubio finishes with a solid third in Iowa, a larger segment of the “establishment” faction of the Republican party will coalesce their support around him which will change the race dynamics going into the February 9 New Hampshire primary. Right now Trump has a significant lead in New Hampshire at 31.4% followed by Ohio Governor John Kasich at 13.2%, Cruz at 11.6%, Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at 10.8% and Rubio at 9.4%. If the establishment Republicans start going to Rubio, he will pull some of the support from Kasich, Bush, and Cruz in New Hampshire. And this movement could totally change the dynamics of the race. By the time the GOP race gets to the South Carolina primary on February 20th and Super Tuesday on March 1, the polls may look totally different with Rubio overtaking Cruz.
Of course, there is still the caveat that a win in Iowa is not a guaranteed path to the presidential nomination. After all, current GOP candidates former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum both pulled off wins in Iowa in 2008 and 2012 respectfully but neither landed the nomination.
As for the Democrats, the race in Iowa between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is incredibly tight with Clinton at 47.3%, only three points ahead of Sanders. Of course this situation has Hillary running so scared that she is now requesting more debates. Clinton is right to be nervous because in New Hampshire Sanders at 53.7% has a major lead over her at 39.4%. However, the Clinton camp say that they aren’t worried about losing either Iowa or New Hampshire because they are sure that they will win in South Carolina and in other southern states where the black vote plays a critical role. Right now in South Carolina, Clinton at 62% has close to a 30 point lead over Sanders at 32.5%. And her lead in Florida over Sanders is even greater at 40%. But, Clinton’s lead could narrow particularly in light of the public’s growing perception of her as not trustworthy. According to a recent Wall Street Journal/ABC Poll, only 36% of Democrats think Hillary is trustworthy. And with every new poll, it seems like her trustworthiness statistic is falling further and further. And then of course, there is still that looming potential criminal indictment for compromising national security by using a private server to send emails while she was Secretary of State.
So yes, on February 1, we will all be laser focused on the Hawkeye State.
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