Seven weeks from the caucuses, Ted Cruz is crushing it in Iowa.
The anti-establishment congressional agitator has made a rapid ascent into the lead in the GOP presidential race here, with a 21 percentage-point leap that smashes records for upsurges in recent Iowa caucuses history.
Donald Trump, now 10 points below Cruz, was in a pique about not being front-runner even before the Iowa Poll results were announced Saturday evening. He wasted no time in tearing into Cruz — and the poll — during an Iowa stop Friday night.
Ben Carson, another “Washington outsider” candidate, has plunged 15 points from his perch at the front of the pack in October. He’s now in third place.
“Big shakeup,” said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll. “This is a sudden move into a commanding position for Cruz.”
Cruz, a Texas U.S. senator famous for defying party leaders and using government shutdown tactics to hold up funding for the Obamacare health care law and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, was the favorite of 10 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the last Iowa Poll in October. He’s now at 31 percent.
Carson’s zenith was 28 percent in the poll two months ago. Trump’s highest support was 23 percent back in August, when he led the field by 5 points.
And there are signs Cruz may not have peaked in Iowa yet. Another 20 percent of likely caucusgoers say he’s their current second choice for president. Cruz hits 51 percent support when first- and second-choice interest is combined, again leading the field.
With Cruz’s popularity and his debate proficiency, “it’s certainly possible that he could win Iowa big — very big,” said Frank Luntz, a Nevada-based GOP focus group guru who follows the Iowa race closely.
But Trump, who has earned a reputation for upending pundits’ predictions, still has healthy backing, at 21 percent, 2 percentage points higher than in the last poll.
And the New York real estate entrepreneur has won the confidence of likely caucusgoers in several key areas. In a four-way head-to-head match-up with Cruz, Carson and Marco Rubio, half of likely caucusgoers believe Trump would be best at managing the economy and think he’d do the most to solve the illegal immigration problem. Forty-nine percent believe Trump “knows the most about how to get things done,” while only 22 percent say that of Cruz.
Carson, a mellow-voiced religious conservative who spent his career at the bedside of children who needed brain surgery, has dropped to 13 percent. Poll respondents interviewed by the Register said they want a president who will be tough on terrorism, and they have a trouble seeing Carson in this role.
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