A new Fox News poll of Iowa shows Donald Trump surging to a strong 11-point lead in the caucuses taking place next week. With just one week until the first votes of the 2016 primary are cast, Trump leads second-place Sen. Ted Cruz 34-23 percent.
The last two Fox News polls of Iowa, conducted in early January and early December, has Ted Cruz with a slim lead over the GOP frontrunner. In the last two weeks, according to the poll, Trump has gained 11 points and Cruz has lost 4 points.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio remains in a distant third place with 12 percent, but he has lost 3 points since early January. No other candidate has support in the double digits.
The Fox poll has a fairly large 5-point margin of error, higher than its last two polls, but the underlying trend towards Trump is unmistakable. One major factor helping Trump is that Republican voters in general are warming to his candidacy.
In early January, almost one-third of Republicans, 31 percent, said they could not support Trump if he became the nominee. Today, that number is down to 20 percent.
This week, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley appeared at a campaign rally for Donald Trump. He made it clear he wasn’t endorsing Trump and is, in fact, scheduled to appear with Sen. Marco Rubio this weekend, but his appearance is an explicit un-endorsement of Ted Cruz. Grassley has recently criticized his colleague Cruz for his opposition to ethanol and wind power subsidies.
Also this week, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad publicly stated that he hoped Cruz would lose the Iowa caucus, also because of his opposition to ethanol and wind power. As the nation’s top corn producer, the state has a vested interest in maintaining the federal mandate to include ethanol-blended gasoline in motor fuel. The state has also become a leading provider of federally subsidized wind power.
In addition, Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa early in the week. Her endorsement came just as the Fox poll was starting interviews in the Hawkeye State. The Palin endorsement boosted Trump considerably among voters who identify as “very conservative” and “tea party.”
Among both voters, Cruz had been leading Trump in the last Fox poll. Trump now leads among “tea party voters” and is essentially tied with Cruz among “very conservative” voters. Cruz had held a slim lead among more mainstream “Republican” voters, a group Trump now leads by 9 points.
Trump, it seems, is benefiting from a political perfect storm just before Iowa casts its votes. Palin’s embrace of Trump and the state’s Republican establishment’s united opposition to Cruz has pushed Trump into a strong lead.
This unique combination, if it holds, could allow Trump to run the tables in states voting through the Spring and lock-in the nomination sooner than most would have expected.
That said, a week is a lifetime in politics, and a tea party-establishment coalition likely is tenuous. There is also a final GOP debate on Thursday, just 4 days before the caucus. Still, Iowa seems to be moving towards Trump.