I have a friend who’s in Iowa leading some student journalists to cover the voting and she said the other day that they went to Cruz’ headquarters and the “door was open…and lots of people were inside partying.” And someone welcomed them in. Over at Trump headquarters she said the door was locked and they weren’t allowed in. Not sure what that means exactly, but it tells one story.
Based on polls, weather, and what I’m reading out of Iowa here goes:
On the Democrat side I think Hillary wins but Bernie is relatively close, thus the story line doesn’t change heading into New Hampshire, where Sanders has a substantial lead. I think it’s organization that wins in Iowa. Bernie draws a lot of young voters, not known for coming to vote or to caucus and in the byzantine ways of Iowa caucuses, where you get people to attend matters more than how many attend. His campaign has been advertising on college campuses, where he is strong, that students should go home to vote – because his campaign knows they will vote for him. College kids, though, have lots to do besides drive a few hours home on a Monday and get back to classes for Tuesday. While Sanders clearly is leading some kind of movement, I don't think the students will move home for the night to vote. Sanders should, though, have a respectable showing and remain in it, and after he wins New Hampshire, we’ll see as the campaign heads south if he can do as well in more diverse states.
On the Republican side, I think Cruz wins, Trump is second and maybe even will finish third with Rubio either third or second. I don’t buy that Trump’s supporters will come to the caucuses. It’s supposed to snow and many of his troops have never caucused before. I think his big crowds are a large percentage drawn by his celebrity, not his candidacy. Folks want to see the show and maybe buy a hat. Cruz is said to have one of the best organizations ever built in Iowa, and that’s saying a lot. Even though his popularity is waning some now, the organization takes him over the top.
Cruz would get a boost out of Iowa but he isn’t the typical candidate to win in New Hampshire. Not so many religious voters in New Hampshire -- just ask Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee, both of whom won the Iowa caucus. Trump’s been leading there but an Iowa second or third place finish will take some of the luster off the shine. Kasich, especially bolstered by some good newspaper endorsements, and Bush, buoyed by a stronger than he’s had debate and good-on-the ground-in-New Hampshire work, will do better than folks expect them to do. Thus, the field will start to winnow. Kasich and/or Bush should start to gain some traction heading into states where far less polling has been done and the voters are more diverse, which means fewer votes for Cruz and, likely, Trump.
Trump’s no-show for the last debate hasn’t hurt him a lot but a loss in Iowa will start to reinforce why he is an amateur at politics, inexperienced at governing though a star at betting publicity.
So, I’m not believing the polls. I’m not ever going to believe that the GOP can nominate a Trump or a Cruz. I’ve kind of believed the above throughout this campaign. Call it denial or being an optimist (not something I’ve often been accused of) but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.