Poll: Donald Trump Holds Iowa Lead, Ted Cruz Fades

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a campaign rally at the Sioux City Orpheum Theatre on January 31, 2016 in Sioux City, Iowa. Trump and other presidential hopefuls are in Iowa trying to gain support and crucial votes for tomorrow's caucuses. (Photo by )
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A final Quinnipiac poll ahead of the Iowa caucus finds Donald Trump’s support steady at 31 percent while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has dropped 5 points in the last week.

Cruz currently has the support of 24 percent of likely caucus-goers, according to the poll. Last week, his support was 29 percent.

The poll also shows a late increases in support for third-place Marco Rubio. The Florida senator has 17 percent support, up from 13 percent last week.

Trump’s current 7-point lead in the poll, released on the day of the Iowa caucus, seems to come completely from the drop in support for Cruz. The poll anticipates a big surge in turnout for the caucus. Trump has an 18-point lead among first-time caucus-goers.

The surge in turnout anticipated by Quinnipiac would change greatly the composition of the electorate voting Monday. If the Quinnipiac assumption on turnout is correct, only around 40 percent of caucus-goers would be evangelicals, a dramatic drop from the previous two caucuses.

Cruz maintains a slight edge among evangelicals in the poll, although his support among this critical voting block has dropped in the last week.

The number of “very conservative” voters in the caucus would also drop to around 40 percent, if Quinnipiac is correct. Cruz continues to dominate the field among very conservative voters, leading Trump by 18 points, essentially the same as last week.

Rubio’s rise in the poll is attributable to a dramatic increase in weak conservative and moderate voters.  Trump dominates both voting blocks, with Rubio in a strong second place position among moderate Republican voters.

The Quinnipiac poll anticipates an Iowa caucus vote unlike either 2008 and 2012. According to the poll, 44 percent of caucus-goers will be participating for the first time. That would put the Republican election on par with the Democrat caucus in 2008, where Barack Obama rode a wave of new voters to victory.

The electorate would also be less conservative, more moderate and less evangelical than previous Republican caucuses. In a campaign where Donald Trump has reshuffled the political deck, that it certainly a possibility.

Interestingly, it is Trump’s possible changing of the Republican electorate that is giving Marco Rubio a chance to finish better than expected in Iowa.

Barack Obama showed in 2008 that the best path to victory lay in changing the composition of the electorate. Oddly, Donald Trump seems to be utilizing that game plan to his advantage this year.