DES MOINES, IOWA– Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is trailing Donald Trump in Iowa, but people shouldn’t discount Cruz just yet.
It’s said every election night, but it’s true: tonight will come down to turnout, and Cruz can win Monday’s Iowa caucus if turnout is low.
Last week’s Monmouth University poll shows that Cruz leads Trump, 28 percent to 23 percent, among people who regularly vote. However, Trump wins among people who don’t have a history of voting in elections.
The election could go to Trump if he successfully gets his supporters, many of whom are first-time voters, to show up to vote Monday evening.
The Monmouth poll shows that if 200,000 people show up to vote, Trump would win with 32 percent, while Cruz will get 26 percent. However, if you drop the turnout to 130,000 people Trump and Cruz are tied at 26 percent.
In 2012, 122,000 Republican voters showed up to vote. Things will look good for Cruz if the turnout remains relatively the same.
The Cruz campaign is bracing for more than 122,000 voters, but realize that the election won’t look good for Cruz if it increases exponentially.
Cruz’s big advantage going into the Iowa caucus is his large support from evangelical voters. Turnout among Iowa social conservative tends to be high. This was the case in 2008 and 2012, as NBC notes.
In both years, the social conservative candidate won the state – former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – and both men got a big bump in the final tally compared to polls.
Going into the 2008 caucuses, Huckabee led Mitt Romney by about 3 points – 29.7 percent to 26.7 percent – but in the final results Huckabee won by more than 9 points, 34.4 percent to 25.2 percent.
In 2012, Santorum had not led in any polls in Iowa going into the caucuses. Yet, the night of the vote, he eked out a .1 point victory over Romney.
If social conservatives come out in big numbers Monday evening, Cruz can win. The concern for Cruz’s campaign, however, is a scenario in which social conservatives split the vote between him and Carson. Carson is currently polling at 10 percent in Iowa.
Cruz’s and Trump’s campaign strategies going into Iowa have been vastly different.
Cruz has been focused on retail politics, visiting every county in Iowa. Trump, on the other hand, is relying on his celebrity status to bring first-time caucus goers to the polls. If Trump is unable to do it, Cruz has a chance at getting the number one spot in Iowa.