Decision Day is here.  The different campaigns had their final town halls and campaign stops yesterday.  Some campaigns are lagging, and others are showing momentum.  For instance at Rick Santorum’s final stop last night at a the Pizza Ranch in Altoona, IA it was a packed house, William Petroski who has been covering Santorum for The Des Moines Register estimated about 400.  Petroski noted that “the enthusiasm and numbers kept growing for Santorum throughout the day.”  In Altoona, Santorum was met by a crush of media including Fox News’ Carl Cameron and Laura Ingraham.

Certainly not what he experienced even two weeks ago.  All today have schedules that are mainly focused on media interviews, and then of course the traditional caucus watch parties.

Tonight we’ll see obviously who wins and who loses – I believe tonight will winnow out a candidate or two.  As we have essentially a three-way tie between Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul we’ll see which branch of the Republican Party will win – conservative, moderate/establishment or libertarian.

In the last Des Moines Register poll it indicated that 41% of voters could still change their minds.  That’s pretty significant.  Which leads me to one of the things to watch for tonight – don’t underestimate the significance of a neighbor or friend speaking on behalf of their candidate of choice.  At each caucus site every candidate will will have the opportunity to have somebody speak on their behalf.  You literally have people who are undecided, and you also have those whose support is soft.  Hearing a neighbor or a friend speak may be a tipping point for some voters.  Who speaks could make a difference – a respected member of the community or a college student who is a first-time caucus goer?  It matters.

The second thing to watch is the crossover Independent or Democrat vote.  Public Policy Polling indicated that is breaking in favor for Ron Paul (no surprise there), and they estimate they will make up 24% of the caucus goers.  In their analysis they said:

For all that Paul still has a very decent chance at winning on Tuesday- it just depends on whether his unusual coalition of young voters and non-Republicans really comes out to caucus.  Among actual Republican voters Paul is tied for 3rd place with Gingrich at 17%, behind Romney’s 21% and Santorum’s 19%. But with independents and Democrats who plan to vote, which we peg at 24% of the electorate, Paul leads with 30% to just 14% each for Santorum and Romney.

There’s a similar divide along age lines. With seniors Paul is in only 5th place at 11%, well behind Romney’s 27%, Gingrich’s 19%, Santorum’s 17%, and Perry’s 12%. But with voters under 45, who we think will make a larger share of the electorate than they did in 2008, Paul’s at 30% to 19% for Santorum and 14% for Romney.

With older voters who typically frequent these Caucuses, they aren’t impressed with Paul.  Among registered Republicans, he’s not polling that strong.  Younger voters are unreliable, and it’s hard to really quantify the crossover vote.  Some will do it out of principles, and that’s fine.  Others are doing it to play political games, in that case, I agree with John Deeth – caucus with your own party.

My predictions for tonight, I think we’re going to have a good turnout.  It’s supposed to be warmer today and that will help.  We had roughly 118,000 vote in 2008.  I believe we’ll see at least that many voters.  In a radio interview last night I wasn’t quite that optimistic, but I’ve changed my mind.  Here is how I think we’ll see tonight play out.  I realize I may have to eat my words tomorrow, and that’s fine.  This is for fun, and I’m not a prophet.  If I’m right though, I reserve the right to tell you so.

The winner will have under 25% of the vote.

  1. Rick Santorum – 22% – He’s got the momentum.  I predict evangelicals will break to him, older voters and the rural vote.
  2. Ron Paul – 21% – He gets significant crossover vote, but not enough to put him over the top.
  3. Mitt Romney – 20% – his base has a ceiling.
  4. Newt Gingrich – 14%
  5. Rick Perry – 13%
  6. Michele Bachmann – 8%
  7. Other/Cain (yes some people will still vote for him) – 1%
  8. Jon Huntsman – 1%

Michele Bachmann will drop out of the race after tonight.  Perry and Gingrich will go on to at least New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Again, I may be completely off, and you can reserve the right to tell me so, but that’s my gut feeling.

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