With less than a week until the Iowa caucus, the Washington Post is reporting that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is trying to lower his expectations in the pivotal first contest.
Weeks ago, Cruz was seen as the clear frontrunner in the Iowa caucus. Today, though, his one-time lead in the polls seems to be slipping away.
The four most recent polls in Iowa have shown Trump reclaiming a solid lead in the state. The RealClearPolitics average of polls now shows Trump with a 6 point lead over Cruz, just days ahead of voting.
The Iowa caucus is notoriously difficult to poll, because turnout is so hard to predict, and a couple of the recent polls have fairly large margins of error. That said, the overall trend towards Trump in the last few days seem unmistakeable.
Sarah Palin endorsed Trump last week at a highly publicized event in Iowa. A recent Fox poll of Iowa showed Trump dramatically closing the gap with Cruz among the most conservative voters and evangelicals. Cruz had previously enjoyed big advantages with both groups.
The threat to Cruz is only partly coming from Trump, however. Trump’s main accusation against Cruz, that his eligibility to run for President is uncertain because he was born in Canada, isn’t resonating with voters, according to the most recent poll from CBS. Eighty-four percent of Iowa Republicans say Cruz’s birthplace isn’t a serious issue.
Cruz, however, is getting squeezed between Trump and a full-throttle assault from the state’s political establishment. Last week, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is the nation’s longest serving governor, waded into the Presidential caucuses for the first time and said he hoped Ted Cruz loses, because of the candidate’s opposition to ethanol.
Cruz supports phasing out the federal renewable-fuel standard, which mandates that gasoline contain a certain percentage of ethanol, which is derived chiefly from corn.
Branstad’s son, Eric, works for America’s Renewable Future, a pro-ethanol lobbying group that has attacked Cruz throughout the campaign.
Iowa Congressman Steve King, who has endorsed Cruz, told the Post, “The other day I went online and saw a picture of Governor Branstad wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat with one of Trump’s sons. That told me all I needed to know.”
Branstad’s apparent embrace of Trump comes at the same time that former Sen. Bob Dole, winner of the Iowa caucus in 1988 and 1996, said he would prefer Trump win the Republican nomination over Cruz.
Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley recently spoke at a Trump rally, although he hasn’t formally endorsed the national frontrunner. The Republican party chairman of Iowa, Jeff Kauffman, also recently introduced Trump at a rally.
Although Trump is running his campaign as a true outsider, the swing of the political establishment towards his candidacy is bringing a new dynamic into the race. Political pundits had long expected the political establishment to coalesce behind a single candidate. No one, however, expected that candidate would be Trump.
In reality, the lackluster performance of campaigns by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, never mind John Kasich and Chris Christie, have left many in the Republican establishment little choice. The divide between Trump, Cruz and the rest of the Republican field in polls is so wide their only real choice at this time is between the two frontrunners.
Many in the establishment have clearly concluded they can live with Trump as the nominee rather than Cruz.
The challenge isn’t lost on Cruz. The Brody File reported on a private meeting Cruz held with Iowa pastors Monday afternoon. “If Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New Hampshire, if he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there is a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee,” Cruz said.
“Even if you’re thinking about another candidate, the simple reality is there’s only one campaign that can beat Trump in this state, and if conservatives simply stand up and unite, that’s everything,” Cruz concluded.
Cruz is certainly right about one thing. The Iowa caucus has come down to either Trump or Cruz. With the state’s political establishment now swinging its support behind Trump, Cruz’s field of dreams may blow away.