The latest Iowa Poll from the Des Moines Register came out this weekend. The results for the Republicans and Democrats are equally fascinating. Below I will share some of my thoughts on the poll, but before we do that, I think it’s appropriate to look back at where things stood four years ago.
In late August of 2011, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed Texas Governor Rick Perry with an eleven-point lead over Michele Bachmann. Perry led Bachmann 29 to 18 percent. The Rasmussen poll also had Romney at 17 percent, Ron Paul at 17 percent and the eventual caucus winner, Rick Santorum, was polling at 4 percent.
What’s interesting to remember is that after Perry peaked in Iowa in late August, Herman Cain led the Iowa polls for most of October and November. Newt Gingrich was polling on top of the field by late November and December, and Romney and Paul took turns leading polls in the final three weeks before the caucuses.
To say the Iowa polls were volatile during the lead up to the 2012 caucuses would be an understatement. Still, the polls coincided with what was transpiring on the ground here in Iowa. That can also be said about the most recent Iowa Poll.
Some Quick Thoughts
Donald Trump is his own self-fulfilling prophecy. By now we are used to The Donald telling us that he’s the greatest or that Hispanics, women, or even evangelical voters “love him.” Laugh all you want, but Trump is dominating the polls, and he has somehow found away to turn around a -41 favorability rating in January to a +26 favorability rating.
What’s more amazing than the turnaround of his polls numbers is the fact that Trump did it all while trashing everyone from John McCain to Megyn Kelly.
Dr. Ben Carson is the antithesis of Trump in his demeanor and how he campaigns in Iowa. Carson enjoys the best favorability numbers in the field with 79 percent of people having a favorable opinion of the retired neurosurgeon, while only 8 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Carson is essentially undefined and likable. Carson is a big problem for social conservative candidates who are looking to mount a challenge to Trump like Texas Senator Ted Cruz or former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
The establishment is toxic. Slice up the poll however you wish, but the candidates who have never held public office, Trump, Carson, and Fiorina, garner 46 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich account for only 14 percent in the latest Iowa Poll. Ouch.
Grassroots organizing is always under represented in early polls. This is good news for the campaigns of Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul. Each of these campaigns have their own issues to overcome, but they have all invested in grassroots organizations in Iowa, which will pay dividends as the caucuses near.
Baffled by Walker’s poll numbers. The Iowa Poll has Walker tied for third place with eight percent. I understand that. I have long thought that the Walker campaign had squandered the early momentum they once enjoyed. It’s when you look closer that things get confusing.
Walker’s favorability is sky-high, the highest it’s ever been in the poll at 71 percent. His unfavorable number has inched up to 14 from 11 back in May, but that still gives him a +56 favorability rating. So if you believe the poll, people still like Walker, but his support has been cut in half. It’s odd, but so is this entire caucus season.
I see opportunity for an establishment candidate not named Bush in Iowa. Bush’s favorable rating has gone from +28 in January to -5 today. The latest Iowa Poll shows that 50 percent of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of him. While it may seem like 2016 is going to be anti-establishment year, there is still plenty of mainstream Republican voters who are looking for a candidate to get them excited. There is an opportunity to capitalize on in Iowa for candidates like Rubio or Kasich. If neither of them makes a play for Iowa, they essentially are kicking the door open for Carly Fiorina.
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