The media room at the Fox News debate is starting to fill with reporters. There are news networks and reporters from around the world present. All eyes are on Des Moines as the only Republican debate in Iowa and last before the Iowa caucuses kicks off Monday night.
The press are creatures of habit. They show up to certain events, including debates. They go to certain coffee shops around Iowa to find voters. They talk about conventional wisdom and they talk about candidates.
Voters are also creatures of habit and the most fascinating thing about Iowa is whether these creatures of habit keep their habits. It is an open question. There has been no evidence of a surge in voter registrations in Iowa. In fact, the number of registered Republicans in Iowa has declined slightly. There will be new numbers out soon, but the speculation is that there has been no mass rush to register. Certainly, voters can register at the door of the caucuses, but will they? That is the million dollar question.
The weather forecast in Iowa is snow and possibly 40mph winds during the caucuses. If creatures of habit stick to habit the voters who have never been to caucus will not go to caucus on Monday night. According to Monmouth University, Ted Cruz “leads Trump by a 28% to 23% margin among” Republicans who have gone to the caucuses before.
“Nearly half (45%) of likely caucus goers report having been contacted by a campaign to obtain their support. This includes 25% who have been contacted by the Cruz campaign, 17% by Rubio, 12% by Carson, and 13% by Trump,” Monmouth University reported.
So do new voters show up and overwhelm the caucuses in a way they never have before? If they do, we are in a new era of politics that effectively kills the Iowa Caucuses as we know it. In the past, to get the creatures of habit to the polls, candidates did events throughout the state, poured in volunteers for door to door efforts, and pounded the pavement. Donald Trump has done otherwise. He has flown in for limited engagements of large crowds without pouring major resources into a ground game.
If Trump is able to win the Iowa caucuses in a way no one has ever won the before, the caucus ground game diminishes and future candidates will need to rethink how to win. But if traditional rules of politics still apply, Trump’s new voters will not get out in the snow on Monday giving the advantage to Ted Cruz.