I’ve been asked, several times, how I think the Iowa Caucuses will pan out. The official answer is I don’t know. I can make an educated guess, but frankly there are a lot of variables and unanswered questions that could change things.
Right now looking at the Real Clear Politics snapshot of January polling this is what we currently have as of right now a little more than 20 days out.
1. Ted Cruz – 27.3%
2. Donald Trump – 26.8%
3. Marco Rubio – 13.3%
4. Ben Carson – 8.8%
5. (Tie) Chris Christie & Jeb Bush – 4.3%
7. Rand Paul – 4.0%
8. Mike Huckabee – 2.3%
9. John Kasich – 2.0%
10. Carly Fiorina – 1.5%
11. Rick Santorum – 1.0%
The last two polls Quinnipiac and ARG give Donald Trump the edge over Cruz. Both Cruz and Trump saw gains from the last Quinnipiac poll – two points and three points respectfully. Rubio gained one point, and Carson dropped three. Bush dropped two points and Christie surpassed him as he gained one point. ARG, I believe, just did their first poll so I don’t really have anything to compare it with.
It is important to remember that polls are just a snapshot of the state of the race at that time. In the next twenty days we will have two debates and there is plenty of time for a candidate to get off message in a way that could hurt his or her campaign.
Also polling is only reliable provided the polling models are accurate which brings me back to the variable and unanswered questions. Some of these are:
- Voter turnout?
- Donald Trump has attracted a lot of people to his events in Iowa. Will that translate into caucus goers? He has an impressive organization in Iowa, a lot of staff, they are offering caucus trainings, and he’s rolling out TV and radio ads. But he’s attracting a lot of non-traditional voters so the big looming question is will those people truly cross over and caucus for him? We’ll have to wait and see.
- How well will evangelicals turn out and will they coalesce around a candidate as it appears they are with Ted Cruz? Or is there larger support behind Huckabee and Santorum than polling indicates?
- Is Ben Carson’s drop in the polls truly indicative of a drop in support in Iowa?
- Is Chris Christie making a play for the establishment lane among Iowa Republicans. It seems like he could perform above expectations on caucus night.
- Will Ted Cruz survive the scrutiny and attacks he’ll face? Based on the Quinnipiac poll it doesn’t appear so, but there’s a lot of time left.
- Rand Paul recently announced 1000 precinct captains. Does any other campaign have those kinds of numbers? Will Paul achieve his goal of 10,000 college students caucusing for him on February 1st? That could be a game changer.
- Will Jeb Bush finally see some return on investment with advertising?
- Who really does have the best organization in the state?
I’m not one who believes the state-based polling is totally inaccurate. I generally only hear that from those whose candidates are down in the polls. I also don’t believe that we should live and die on them either (or base our debates on them). I do think it’s a battle between Cruz and Trump at this point, but a lot can change.