There was unparalleled political excitement in Iowa this weekend as politicians, press, and political junkies descended on the Hawkeye State for the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Monday night, the talking heads and pundits who have mused for months on the outcome will likely learn just how wrong they were.
InsideSources prides itself on offering a counterpoint perspective to the analysis of most Washington media. We have coverage that you won’t find elsewhere – because as I often like to point out, academic studies show pundits are worse at making predictions than if they were making random guesses.
When it comes to the Iowa Caucuses, we’ve been hearing other analysts claim all along that Donald Trump stood no chance. That he would drop out of the race before Iowa. That even if he was in the race, he couldn’t possibly win.
Meanwhile, InsideSources has been arguing since midsummer that the talking heads were not actually analyzing the race but only offering wishful thinking. In July, InsideSources hosted a panel discussion featuring journalists from the early states who thought the national media had this race wrong. I wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and appeared on Fox Business making the case Trump had a very good chance to win Iowa because of the quirks of caucus math.
This does not mean Trump will win tonight. But while many others wrote off Trump, InsideSources did not rely on the conventional wisdom and groupthink of Beltway reporting. We worked to find answers.
By all counts, Trump appears on track to win Iowa. He leads the polls, and Ted Cruz has begun to fade. But there are several key factors working against Trump. The Iowa Caucuses are not a primary. Voters do not simply walk into a voting booth and pull a lever. There is a time commitment, and caucusgoers will need to sit and listen to their friends and neighbors discuss who they’re supporting. The final Des Moines Register poll shows lingering worries about Trump. Some Trump supporters may stay home. Others may turn to Cruz.
The biggest threat to both Trump and Cruz is Marco Rubio. There is palpable momentum in Iowa behind the Florida senator. At a rally Sunday night in Davenport, Rubio made the all-important pitch, asking those backing other candidates to switch their support. His tone isn’t angry like Trump and Cruz. He told Iowans that even those who despise him would receive a tax cut.
Mainstream Republicans in Iowa, long unsure of which of several potentially-electable candidates to support, are moving to back Rubio. Momentum matters. And when supporters of Bush, Christie, Kasich, and others consider the prospect of Cruz or Trump as the nominee, they will turn to Rubio as their last, best hope tonight.
For what it’s worth, it should be noted that the Iowa Caucuses are a party event. They are not certified by the Iowa Secretary of State. This year, there will be a new reporting app created by Microsoft that will speed along the collection of results and increase transparency. But the parties can do as they wish without any legal requirement to present accurate results.
The key to the caucuses isn’t necessarily winning them, but in winning a particular lane. Trump and Cruz are battling it out for the evangelical and Tea Party lanes. Rubio, arguably the first Tea Party candidate in the 2010 cycle, will almost assuredly win the “establishment” lane, so even if he does not win Iowa, Rubio will receive new financial backing and likely the endorsements of Bush, Kasich, and Christie when they exit.
In the end, Iowa will do more to propel Rubio than either Trump or Cruz. Rubio has survived the retail phase that he struggles with, and he will soon move on to the wholesale phase where he excels. Delegate math favors Rubio. All the states voting prior to March 15 will allot delegates proportionally. But beginning March 15, as more populous states with more traditional Republican blocs become the focus, the primaries shift to winner take all. This gives Rubio a good chance of winning the nomination without winning the early states, and it means this race will possibly drag on until June.