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.