2016 Caucus

January 4th, 2016

29 Days Left – The State of the Caucus Race


Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

If you are into politics, there will be no better place to be for the next month than the state of Iowa. The holidays are over. The Hawkeye football season is over. We love college basketball, and while conference play is upon us, it doesn’t get serious until March. For the next 30 days, the Iowa Caucuses will take center stage and dominate discussions and news coverage around the state.

As we enter the final phase of the caucus campaigns, it’s a good time to evaluate where things currently stand. While there are still a dozen Republican candidates in the race, from my perspective, there are five candidates to watch.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz: I don’t care what the polls say on any particular day, Cruz is the frontrunner in Iowa. Besides having an advantage in the fundraising department, Cruz’s Iowa advantage is that he has tremendous appeal to conservative activists who are frustrated with everything Washington.

The majority of these people are the type that caucus every cycle, which means that the Cruz campaign doesn’t have to spend a ton of time educating its supporters about how the caucuses work or motivate them to turn out on February 1st. The Cruz campaign is also committed to Iowa. The Texas Senator has spent ample time here and is scheduled to be all over the state this month.

The Iowa Caucuses are Cruz’s to lose.

Donald Trump: The New York businessman has been the most talked about and thus interesting candidate for president in 2015. If Trump’s dominance in the media is going to continue, he’s going to have to win Iowa or New Hampshire. The media has been obsessed with the capabilities of the Trump campaign. While this is understandable, one can never accurately analyze a campaign until Election Day.   On the evening of February 1st, we will know whether the Trump campaign is for real or not.

Trump has the highest ceiling of all the candidates, which means that he has the potential to dominate in Iowa if the campaign turns out the people it has identified through all its events and activities over the past year.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio: Ever since he formally announced his candidacy, Rubio has been a candidate with a tremendous potential. The pundits have ridiculed Rubio for a campaign that values national media exposure and TV ads over personal appearances, but he’s campaigning across the state now. As they say, it’s better late than never.

There is plenty of excitement and good crowds at Rubio’s events. Can he win Iowa? Sure. Will he win Iowa? I have no clue. Rubio’s events are very staged, and the well-spoken candidate refers to a grocery list of talking points throughout his remarks. Staged and scripted are not necessarily good attributes in caucus campaigns.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: Rubio’s competition in Iowa is going to come from Christie, not Jeb Bush or some other establishment candidate. Last week, I attended a couple Christie events and came away very impressed. While Rubio’s events are scripted and staged, Christie’s are unpredictable and fantastic political theater. Christie is probably the most talented politician in field. In Marshalltown last week, he was asked some great questions, people volunteered that they are caucusing for him, and when asked something bizarre, he skillfully defused the situation like a pro.

Christie is a dark horse in Iowa, but I like everything he’s doing, and he has a month to go. Christie doesn’t need to win Iowa. He just needs to get a bump by being a surprise.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: Call him a long shot or an underdog, but I think Huckabee is another dark horse. Cruz benefits greatly from the fact that neither Huckabee nor Santorum are considered viable in the eyes of voters. Just remember, viability is based entirely on polling numbers and fundraising numbers. I think both candidates are better positioned than the polls will ever suggest, and between the two I think Huckabee is more likely to surprise.

Huckabee announced that he plans to hold 150 campaign events in the month of January. That means he’s going to be everywhere, and for someone as likeable as Huckabee, that’s a smart strategy.

Quick Hits:

Dr. Ben Carson: Continues to set the fundraising pace, but his campaign is a complete mess. Since the Iowa State Fair he’s spent just 10 days in Iowa. The caucuses are a lot like the Iowa Lottery; you can’t win if you don’t play.

Rick Santorum: Yes, I have a soft spot for Santorum. He’s as serious of a candidate as they come, and he makes that point in his new TV ad. “If you want someone to read you one hell of a bed time story, Ted Cruz is your guy. If you want to protect America and defeat ISIS, Rick Santorum’s your president.”

Jeb Bush: The media made a big deal about the Bush campaign cutting it’s TV advertising in Iowa last week. All you really need to know is that it’s been over a month since Bush has visited Iowa. He returns next week, but the reality of the situation is that he’s not much of a factor in Iowa.

Rand Paul: He’s not the candidate is father was, and Ted Cruz’s libertarian leanings have also cut into his support in Iowa, but Paul’s campaign in Iowa is underestimated. If any candidate has flown under the radar, it’s Paul. He might not have what it takes to have a top three finish like his father did in 2012, but he could make things interesting on caucus night in some of those eastern Iowa population centers.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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