In the Des Moines Register poll, Cruz has a three point lead. Likewise, in the newest ABC News poll, Cruz has the highest popularity among Republican voters, which Gallup’s polling also reflects.
The problem for Cruz is that the polling average in Iowa has him tied with Trump. He is at 26.7%, while Trump is at 26.2%. It is a very close race.
There are, however, some anecdotes for Cruz to take comfort in, though anecdote is not data. Other campaigns are beginning to admit Cruz has outworked them on the ground in Iowa. He has operations in every county, he has Steve King’s endorsement, he has Bob Vander Plaats’s endorsement, and he has the highest popularity. Likewise, at a recent Trump rally, media reports suggest only about five percent of the attendees said they were going to the caucus. There is some data to back up the anecdotes in that several people familiar with polling among three campaigns tell me Cruz’s voters are most likely to go to the caucus.
That is related to the Trump weakness in Iowa. He is attracting large crowds and attracting voters, but they tend to be non-traditional, non-caucus going voters. They are going to have to turn out at a pretty high rate for Trump to win. In fact, they are going to have to turn out at a rate they have never turned out before for Trump to win.
But Cruz has a weakness too.
The establishment of the GOP has begun making peace with Trump. They believe they can beat him if they finish off Cruz in Iowa. A number of Republican establishmentarians have begun privately rooting for Trump and in some cases trying to help him in Iowa. They believe that Trump can be beaten by Rubio or, in the worse case scenario, reasoned with once Cruz is gone.
The Republican Establishment is vastly more worried about its own skin in the game than about policy or principle. They think Trump, should he be the nominee, will go left and they will be able to use him. Remember, these are the same people who really thought the base of the party would be excited if the GOP looked angrily at Obama without actually doing anything.
Everyone is out to get Cruz in Iowa except two guys, it seems. The only two who have said a kind word about Ted Cruz lately are Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Both have defended Cruz on the birther issue. Both of their campaigns seem to understand that they’d rather Cruz come out of Iowa than Trump. And right now, Rubio looks like he will finish third in Iowa hoping that, headed into New Hampshire and South Carolina, Cruz and Trump finish each other off.