Atlanta, GA – On the Democratic side, the race is closer than the two sides of a peanut butter sandwich. While many Iowan Democrats say they feel Sanders will best look after their interests, many appear torn, battling with their hope that they will send the first woman to the White House, as well as a belief, (mainly rooted in fact) that Sanders would find it nearly impossible to win a general election, even against the cookie monster.
Things are so tight that Martin O’Malley is, for one brief moment, actually relevant in the discussion as both Hillary and Sanders supporters consider using Caucus ploys to have O’Malley hurt the other top candidate.
How will it turn out? Someway, certainly.
Over on the Republican side, otherwise known as the side most people care about, there is Donald Trump. He has crept past Ted Cruz in the polls, and his numbers remain steady. Several polls have him in first place, and Nate Silver, the revered number cruncher, gives a slight edge to Trump in the race, as does the final Des Moines Register poll.
Ted Cruz, according to popular lore, is still reeling from a bad second half in his last pre-Iowa debate. While he has down played expectations in Iowa, always only saying that he was going to “do well,” it is no secret that Cruz wants to win Iowa in a bad way.
In third and expected by everyone, including, apparently, himself, to stay there, is Marco Rubio. In a brilliant move, Rubio has always said he only planned on taking third in Iowa, thus not it won’t hurt his candidacy when he lands there tonight, as he no doubt will.
Rand Paul, the only other GOP contender with a shadow of a chance, continues to promise some lightning tonight, where he pulls at least into the top three, but I’m not holding my breath.
Chris Christie has said he only wants to beat the other governors, but no one has ever won the Republican Nomination that did not pull into the top three in Iowa, and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different.
Of course, winning Iowa isn’t everything, as can be told you by past Iowa winners, President Rich Santorum and President Mike Huckabee. However, if Trump falls flat on his face, dropping to third or even fourth, his candidacy will never recover, whereas if Cruz wins, it could signal the beginning of the end for all other contenders. If Rand Paul wins? Who knows?
The big story tonight will be turnout, for while Trump has a small lead among past Caucus goers, he has a commanding lead in first timers. But will they show up? Generally only about 120,000 Iowans go to Republican Caucuses, but according to Jeff Roe, Ted Cruz’s campaign manager, the polls predicting Trump will win assume over 300,000 people will show up, which would be rather unprecedented.
Cruz’s supporters are very loyal, while Trumps’ are apparently people who are exhausted with the political process. So will they show up and actually vote? Its hard to tell. Many pollsters say they won’t, but perhaps they are all just looking at things as they want them to be, not as they actually are.
To further complicate matters, there is a blizzard brewing across Iowa, which will make it more unlikely that first-timers will brave the weather.
So, the bottom line is it all hangs on turnout. If you love Trump, pray for clear skies. If you love Cruz, pray for snow.