Never make predictions, especially about the future. (Casey Stengel)

Introduction/Explanation: Anytime you see a (–%) in parenthesis, it is the most recent realclearpolitics.com average. The first section is Iowa averages. The second section is New Hampshire averages.

I’ve been watching the movement and polls and tried to discern what is going on in the GOP Presidential Primary.   Nationally, since there has been so little movement, I can’t even discern a guess.   However, I think I’m ready to make some Iowa predictions. It is noon on Caucus day when I started writing this.

TOP THREE: While there are a few examples of people coming outside the top three in the polls and getting into the top three finishers, the Santorum phenomenon is a one-off (but even then, you saw surging at the end to tell you it was possible). And, the Thompson knocking McCain out of the top three happens on occasion but it was close before Caucus night so the movement wasn’t really that surprising (plus Thompson showed late momentum).

TOP THREE COMBINED (69.4%): This has always been surprisingly stable with maybe a few point uptick if the leader gets a bump (e.g. Huckabee in 2008). Historically, it appears that if people change horses late, unlike a lot of “bandwagon” examples, Iowans don’t jump to the leaders. I predict the total for the top three candidates will be 70%-72%.

TRUMP (28.6%):   While currently leading by 4.7%, the impact of not being in the final debate and having an Iowa organization that rivals Fiorina & Christie’s, I predict that Trump will finish around 20%-23%.

CRUZ (23.9%): As opposed to Trump, Cruz has the best Iowa organization and I predict Cruz will beat his current poll numbers and finish around 24%-28% (if turnout is low, he might even do better)

RUBIO (16.9%): His recent movement in the late polls shows real momentum, similar to Santorum, Huckabee, Thompson, and Ron Paul (2008 not 2012). Because of this, I predict that Rubio will also beat his current poll numbers and finish around 19%-23%.

EVERYONE ELSE: Carson (7.7%) is most likely to get a very distant 4th. However, it is possible that Bush, Huckabee, or Kasich could get a mini-bump and get 4th but I predict nobody but the top three will have double digits.

IMPACT ON NEW HAMPSHIRE: More than percentages, I think New Hampshire will be affected by order of finish.

MOST LIKELY IOWA ORDER: (Cruz, Trump, Rubio): I think then Trump will maintain his lead and New Hampshire will be a race for second between Cruz (11.5%), Kasich (11.5%), Bush (10.3%), Rubio (9.5%) and maybe Christie (6.5%).

2nd MOST LIKELY IOWA ORDER: (Trump, Cruz, Rubio): I think this will be bad for Cruz. It is a state made for him demographically (50-60% of caucus goers are evangelicals) and he had the best organization. He will never find a better environment except maybe in South. It could cause him to fall to as low as 5th in New Hampshire and give the perception he isn’t viable as the nominee because it will expose him as weak in the NE and Midwest which can be extended potentially to the Great Plains, and West. Finishing 2nd will force Cruz to finish in the top three in New Hampshire lest all the air goes out of his balloon..

3rd MOST LIKELY IOWA ORDER: (Cruz, Rubio, Trump): I think this will be bad to Trump but not debilitating. Much of his support is based on “new voters” or formerly “low motivated” voters and the caucus is more intimidating/hard to navigate as compared to normal primary or general election voting. However, getting third will confirm the worst for him- his base isn’t reliable at the polls. Even so, he will still likely be able to win New Hampshire (26% lead) and he has the money to very quickly mobilize a traditional organization in South Carolina and beyond. One thing about Donald Trump is he has shown a great capacity to act and react.

LEAST LIKELY IOWA ORDER: (Rubio, Cruz, Trump): The chances of this happening are so remote that it is hardly worth listing except it is possible (5% chance?) Rubio could narrowly beat Cruz 24%-23% and Trump falls to lower than that. If this were to occur, this hurts probably Cruz the most. Trump will still win New Hampshire and say Iowa was in the past. Cruz however has no place to look for a victory until Super Tuesday.

P.S. If the order is Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Cruz will be devastated and possibly be finished as he could then fall down as far as 6th in New Hampshire.

PEAKING TO EARLY/NEGATIVE MOMENTUM:  Finally, if either Trump or Cruz finish with less than 20% or Rubio less than 11%, they will be in big trouble as they will have lost over a third of their support from the poll averages and the narrative will be Cruz can’t perform in a state perfectly teed-up for him, Trump isn’t invincible and his supporters don’t vote, and Rubio looks good on paper and debates good but doesn’t connect.

Just to be clear, I don’t think the odds are very high that anything but Cruz winning Iowa, Trump getting 2nd, and Rubio 3rd. If this occurs, New Hampshire will be about who if anyone will join Trump, Cruz and Rubio as viable candidates.

But, if any of the other scenarios come to pass tonight, the week between now and New Hampshire will be wild with new life breathed into Kasich, Bush, & Christie as the air is sucked out of Trump, Cruz and/or Rubio.

Sidenote: My guess is Ted Cruz is the second most nervous candidate today. Hillary Clinton has to be first.   A guy at lunch said the other day, “Clinton loses Iowa and New Hampshire, she gets indicted the next day and Joe Biden announces.” I don’t know how true that is but the stakes are almost that high for her- No Democrat has ever gotten the nomination without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire and she isn’t going to win New Hampshire.

28 thoughts on “Never make predictions, especially about the future. (Casey Stengel)

  1. Spencer

    Troy and Pat, I am going to take a break from making predictions for this primary season since I have been wrong so many times this primary. I am just going to enjoy the show. We have a real race in Iowa on both sides tonight. Both races could be fundamentally shifted by the results tonight. Grab your popcorn and enjoy the political theater. We don’t get shows like this very frequently.

  2. Charlie Hoffman

    It would appear the real winner tonight is Rubio in gaining the Iowa Surge while Bernie and Hillary are in a dead heat.
    Will Jeb put his money & org. behind Rubio? If he does it changes the game.

  3. Spencer

    Rubio’s speech tonight was inspiring. He is on fire and will flatten whoever wins the Democratic nomination. Trump: “I’m up 25% in New Hampshire right now…” Sure you are, yesterday.

  4. Troy Jones Post author

    I think Cruz did what he had to do and his superior organization delivered. I think Trump survived his rash decision on the debate. I think Rubio took advantage of his momentum. I am shocked these three got 75% of the vote.

    I think the losers are Bush, Kasich, and Christie.

    My bet is Trump will win New Hampshire, Rubio will get second, and Cruz will squeak in third place (New Hampshire enjoys spanking Iowa winners) only because Kasich et. al. so underperformed and his weak NH organization.

    P.S. Cruz’s acceptance speech is too geared for Iowa. Paul might get a small bump in NH.

  5. jimmy james

    Wow. Troy predicted this one spot on. Cruz, Trump and Rubio each received the high end of his estimate. As good as anyone else’s analysis.

    I thought Trump would do a little better in Iowa but Rubio’s surge was still the big story of the night.

  6. Lee Schoenbeck

    You called it Jonsie. I wouldn’t put a lot of cash on Cruz finishing third in New Hampshire, suspect his 15 seconds are about up

    1. i dunno

      I agree with you Lee. You are among the best grassroots minds in SD Politics. PERIOD.

      Ted Cruz’ speech was so long and so over the top. Trumps was short and sweet. Rubio was great but at the same time he was the anointed one.

      This could be a 3 way all the way to the convention. Cruz is a candidate for really conservative states, Trump is a guy for the rest of the states and Rubio is the kind of guy who will be competitive in most of the states.

    2. mhs

      At the end of the day, the #1 law of elections bore true once again: it’s all about connecting with the voter. Cruz did it through organization, Trump through star power, Rubio through dogged retail campaigning.

      Bernie connects personally, Hillary so does not, but her connection machine held him off.

      Christie has personality and an organization, but not enough of either. The Bush machine couldn’t stem the tide working against a nice, smart guy that just can’t connect personally, regardless of family.

      The winner will now be, as always, whoever can carry their connection strength forward.

  7. duggersd

    My understanding is Cruz is pretty much writing off NH and working on SC. He is probably hoping to be relevant on February 20. I would not say his 15 seconds is about up yet. There is the so-called SEC primary coming up shortly after the SC primary and I believe that is an area Cruz will do well. This is far from over and Trump may or may not fade. I still don’t trust him much, but like him a lot more than Hillary.

    1. William Beal

      I agree, that Cruz has the money and organization to remain competitive without a strong finish in NH. Expectations are low enough there, that finishing out of the top 3 won’t make much of a difference.

      It’s time for some more of the lower tier candidates to step aside, for the good of their party and country.

  8. PorterLansing

    This Texas con-man Cruz says the name of Jesus three times in a row and he gets your Evangelicals vote? You Republicans might as well be voting for BeetleJuice.

  9. PorterLansing

    That comment makes no sense, haybilly. Sour grapes means disparaging something you can’t have as worthless, anyway. We’ve got two who can beat any of your three. We surely don’t want any of your candidates. “It’s your circus and they’re YOUR monkeys.” #SourWhat?

    1. Anonymous

      “Monkeys?”

      Yeah, we know your attitude: all those “hispanic” guys look like monkeys.

      Gawd Porter–IT’S 2016!!!! In the good old days of the Democratic party, they wore hoods!

      You’re a puke.

  10. Troy Jones Post author

    Here is what I missed:

    TOP THREE: I thought their cap was 71% (give or take one) and they got 75% with most of the overage going to Trump and Rubio. I mostly over-estimated the impact of Trump not debating. I think this tells us his voters are more reliable to turn-out without organization than assumed.

    BOTTOM GROUP (everyone but top three and Carson): I estimated that this group would collectively get 21%. They got just over 15%. More significantly, I thought one of the Governor’s (Bush, Christie, Kasich) was going to stand out of the pack and outperform polls and get in the 6-7% range. Instead, they all under-performed with Bush anemically leading the pack with 2.8%. Its this collapse of the bottom group that Rubio was able to go so high and Carson doing a bit higher than I thought.

    Upon reflection, this is going to make it more unlikely that one of these Governors will jump to second in New Hampshire and less likely Cruz will finish lower than 4th in New Hampshire (before this bottom group collapse, I thought it possible Cruz could fall all the way to sixth in New Hampshire). For this reason, I think Cruz is making a mistake by going direct to South Carolina when Iowa created an opening for him get 3rd or 4th in New Hampshire. This decision might bite him like Trump’s decision not to debate.

    Three other comments:

    1) Pundits thinking Trump’s performance is a negative harbinger: I disagree. I think Trump did better than expected and shows more strength than they are giving him credit for.

    2) The impending Rubio endorsement by Senator Tim Scott and rumored endorsement by Governor Nikki Haley in South Carolina adds a lot of risk to Cruz by-passing NH and going direct to SC. He is down 15% or so to Trump and 7% ahead of Rubio. It seems like he is drawing a red line in SC despite a greater chance of getting 3rd than 1st.

    3) 46% of the New Hampshire voters are supporting someone outside Trump, Cruz and Rubio (vs. 30% in Iowa going into yesterday). At least half of them are going to go somewhere besides where they currently are at because of how bad the bottom tier did in Iowa. If they go to Trump and Rubio (again remember Cruz is by-passing the state), the memory of Cruz’ Iowa victory will be negated by a 15% loss to Trump, Rubio and possible another candidate or even possibly two.

    In short, Cruz has to-date run a masterful campaign. But, beginning with a 33 minute ramble that was looking back to Iowa and not ahead and the decision to by-pass New Hampshire to concentrate on what may be difficult ground to take (South Carolina), Cruz could be making a bigger mistake than Trump’s decision to not debate.

    1. William Beal

      Troy,

      If your analysis is correct, and it may very well be, I suspect Rubio will gain the greatest share of those who change their support from the lower tier candidates.

      Maybe. However, I think they could consolidate behind one of those lower tier candidates (especially if one does well in New Hampshire) and I think Trump can attract some people. Trump is a businessman and one of their traits is the ability to quickly imitate their competitors. Cruz and Rubio just taught him a valuable lesson- organization matters. With a bunch of candidates dropping out, talent will suddenly become available in South Carolina and Nevada. He has the money and business knowledge on how to attract talent and deploy them.

      I noticed your comment on Cruz and that too is viable. If Cruz’ gamble in SC pays-off (gets over his current 20% in the polls), my prediction on Cruz making a mistake in NH will be obviously wrong. I just think the risk-reward isn’t there to justify his decision. This is a long slog and it is critical to not eliminate yourself. (TJ)

      1. William Beal

        I agree, that Cruz is taking a gamble in NH, but the RCP average still shows a bunching of Cruz/Kasich/Bush/Rubio behind a “Yuuge” Trump lead. If Trump under performs in NH, he takes an additional hit on his “I’m a Winner” argument. A small margin of victory in NH, is still a loss for Trump.

        It’s likely that the pattern of “last minute deciders” will continue, at least in the early states and, for now, that appears to favor Rubio/Cruz vs Trump.

        Even with his cunning and resources, will Trump have the TIME to fully integrate staff and organize SC & NV in time to reverse a decline in support (IF he under performs in NH).

        I’m not trying to underestimate Trump, nor underestimate the passion of his supporters and the need for the GOP to appreciate their concerns,

        That said, I think it unlikely that many undecided voters (or supporters of candidates that exit the race after NH) will throw their support behind Trump. The fewer the candidates remaining after NH, the smaller the Trump plurality of support.

        Anything less than a decisive win is a loss for Trump.

  11. Wax zippo

    Nice analysis of the GOP race. You should work for Fox! I think you had one big factual error on the Democratic side though. You said no Democrat has even won the nomination without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire. I believe Bill Clinton lost both states in 1992 and in fact secured the nomination.

    Wax, I stand corrected. Bill Clinton got 4th in Iowa (losing to favorite son Tom Harken, uncommitted, and Paul Tsongas) and 2nd in New Hampshire (losing to near-favorite son Paul Tsongas). Sheesh, I got out the lists, noted the years the nominee didn’t win Iowa and cross-referenced it against New Hampshire. Obviously, I was so affected by Clinton’s “comeback kid” declaration, I made a mistake. (TJ)

  12. Troy Jones Post author

    Something I just noticed from yesterday’s results:

    1) In 2008, Huckabee set the record for the most votes ever received in an Iowa Caucus with 40,954 votes. Not only did Cruz beat Huckabee’s record total, so did Trump and Rubio.

    2) In 2012, the record total votes in the GOP caucus was 120,000 votes. Yesterday, the top three got over 140,000 votes and a total of 180,000 votes were cast. This shows some very real enthusiasm.

    3) The Democrats (that I could find) don’t release total votes cast. I don’t know how this year stacked up to prior years.

    4) In the last week, Trump dropped 9.3%, Rubio rose 11.3%, Carson rose 2.1%, and Christie dropped 1.2%. The rest of the field vacillated less than 1%. I think this gives strong evidence Trump’s decision to not debate OR his lack of organization hurt him.

  13. Daniel Buresh

    Anyone but Cruz or Trump. One is a religious nutbag and the other is too controversial. Neither are electable. Might as well hand the win to the dems if either of those two clowns get the go-ahead.

    1. Anonymous

      –One is a religious nutbag and the other is too controversial.

      Yep, I cannot believe anyone would vote for Hillary or Sanders

  14. Troy Jones Post author

    Hmmmmm. Last night, it was reported multiple times Cruz was going to South Carolina last night. Today, I hear he is in New Hampshire.

    I wonder if he changed his mind last night and never went to SC or whether he changed his mind this morning. Either way, I think it smart to do his best to maintain his Iowa momentum.