Political types tend to think inside their own boxes, and then wonder why their predictions are wrong when the box collapses.
Winter Storm Kayla could dump several inches on Des Moines and northwest Iowa. That will hurt attendance in areas where voters have to make a difficult drive and then get home in the snow. These events would appear to play to Cruz, who has had an incredible organization on the ground in Iowa.
Based on a net loss of Republican voter registrations in 2016 over 2015, and 2012’s record 122,000 turnout for the caucuses, I was thinking that 125-130 thousand would be a gracious plenty, especially with the weather predictions. My friend Brandon Finnigan of Decision Desk thought that 135-140 thousand is plausible.
But what if you’re a billionaire who really must win Iowa to earn his “creds” this race, by turning what has been pent-up demand into real votes? Donald Trump is not a politician, and one problem is we keep thinking like he is one.
For example: buying votes is illegal, but providing child care and transportation is kosher. So what if Trump rolled a thousand vans painted with the Trump logo on them into Des Moines, Sioux City, Ames, and other key cities and bought up electronic billboards telling people to get on board? Sure, we might know he’s doing this, but Trump is a master of the last-minute buy and has plenty of business connections.
What if Trump rented gymnasiums in those cities and staffed them with child care professionals and youth workers who would watch babies, play games, and otherwise care for kids, and told supporters to drop off their kids there? What if the vans stopped there?
What if Trump bought out every Uber driver in Des Moines and had them go to voters homes who needed a ride to the caucuses?
I’m not saying he’s doing any of those things. But the man is legitimately rich, and can get word out to his supporters very effectively–and not just by Twitter. Trump is also legitimately dangerous as a disruptor in every market in which he plays.
What we do know is that Trump has a real advantage in the polls. We know that if all the people who support Trump show up at the caucuses, he’ll very likely win Iowa with room to spare. What we don’t know is Trump’s plan to bridge that support into votes.
But I am not willing to bet that Trump doesn’t have a plan, and betting against his plans by thinking inside the political box hasn’t yielded good results so far. Let’s not underestimate Trump’s ground game.