In Iowa, Republican Politicians Need Not Apply

SCOTT OLSON/Getty Images
SCOTT OLSON/Getty Images

A new Monmouth University poll of likely caucus-goers in Iowa confirms what anecdotes suggest; base Republican voters have a serious problem with their own elected officials. The top four candidates in the Republican primary, three of whom have never held elective office, together win the support of 65 percent of Republicans in the state.

The more conventional candidates, many of whom are very well known, poll just 22 percent support.

Any member of the Republican party establishment who is convinced they simply have a “Trump problem” is delusional.

In fact, this latest poll is the first to show Trump without a lead. The real-estate developer and Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon, are tied with 23 percent each. In third place is businesswoman Carly Fiorina with 10 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who campaigns as much against Republicans in Washington as Democrats at this stage of the race, is fourth with 9 percent.

Two-thirds of Republicans prefer a candidate from outside government than one with government experience. With numbers this high, the desire for outsiders cuts across the ideological spectrum. Moderate/liberal Republicans prefer, in order, Trump, Fiorina and Carson.

Perhaps that finding is the biggest wake-up call for Republicans in Washington. The current upheaval in the Republican primary isn’t a conservative revolt; its a Republican voter revolt. The entire base of the party is upset with the national Republicans.

Among Tea Party supporters, the voters pick Trump, Carson and then Cruz. Among the most conservative voters, the preferences are Carson, Trump and Cruz. Trump wins men. Carson wins women.

There is no single demographic groups where any of the more establishment candidates, i.e. Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie or Rand Paul do well.

Perhaps even more illustrative is the fate of politicians who had campaigned successfully in Iowa before. Former Sen. Rick  Santorum edged out Mitt Romney to win the causus in 2012. Today, he polls at just 2 percent, far behind “undecided.” Mike Huckabee, who is presumed to have a strong following with evangelicals and had won the caucus in 2008 by almost 10 points, is also polling at just 2 percent. He has given up two-thirds of his support in the state since July.

Sen. Rand Paul was widely expected to be competitive in Iowa. His father, Rep. Ron Paul, had built a strong organization in the state through two caucuses. In 2012, he actually won more delegates than either Santorum or Romney, because of his well-oiled campaign organization. That success has not translated to his son, who has given up almost half his support since July and is in the back of the pack with 3 percent support.

There was a time, then, than Santorum, Huckabee and, by extension, Paul could count on strong institutional support in the Hawkeye State. They had, or could expect, the backing from a sizable number of caucus voters. That time has past. They are currently struggling, not because of who they are, necessarily, but what they represent.

There is a simple algorithm at work in Iowa this year. The closer one is associated with Republicans in Washington or the longer one’s career seeking elective office, the less support one can count on from voters.

It’s a message Republicans in Washington should take firmly to heart: The voters just aren’t that into you.


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