Per my predictions, Cruz has pulled ahead in December in Iowa. He has to hold that spot for 55 days in the most focused time period of the primary season. If Iowans weren’t paying attention before; they will come late December (when everyone is off work discussing politics with family) and in January. February 1st is when the Iowa Caucus is held and Carson’s free fall means windfall for Cruz. He also seems to have split the 6 point fall of Trump with Rubio (who is also up 5 points). Not only does Cruz hold the largest lead in the past 3 months in Iowa, he is also leading the “second choice” poll. That’s legitimate news.
Plenty left to do
Poll data hasn’t come out since mid-Nov for New Hampshire or South Carolina. If they follow suit with Iowa (which is actually rare), then Cruz could be picking up electorate votes in each of the first three primaries. Let’s consider Iowa’s recent history – In November Gingrich lead 28 and Romney had 12. Similarly, in November Trump lead 25 to Cruz 23 (and Trump lead by much more prior to the November poll). In January Romney lead 23 and Gingrich had fallen to 16. In the final actual vote Santorum (who put all of his eggs in the Iowan basket) won by a hand full of votes, but he and Romney both got 24% and Gingrich had 13%.
In New Hampshire (9 Feb voting day) Romney never gave up his lead. He lead big in November 41% to Paul’s 14% and won with 39% (Paul had 23%). But Romney was a northeast man and very popular in the area. Paul and Huntsman did really well here splitting the rest of the vote with 23% and 17% and Santorum with 9% in 4th. That’s a lot of libertarian/conservative votes. Cruz is sitting in 3rd with 10% while Rubio (12%) and Trump (27%) have nowhere near the leads that Romney had in November. Carson was also taking 10% and is likely going to lose some since this November poll. I predict that Trump will have fallen about 5% points and Rubio and Cruz both bump up about 3-4% each. Something like this: Trump 22%, Rubio 16% and Cruz 14%. Striking distance. Anything better than 14% would be amazing.
South Carolina (20 Feb voting day) is also a November poll that had Cruz picking up steam. He only had 11%, but that was up from previous single digits. Rubio only had 12% and Carson surged with 22% (Trump at 28%). Look for South Carolina to act more stubborn and different than the previous states. I say Trump picks up a point 29%, Carson loses modestly at 17%, and Cruz jumps Rubio with 14% and 12%.
These are the three early primary states. If Cruz can finish first in one state and second in at least one of these states then he can pull into the big 1 Mar deadline (I’m ignoring Nevada) with great momentum and legitimacy. Where Cruz needs to score big on 1 Mar is in the following states:
Alabama (50 delegates)
First, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas are all southern states and they all have legitimate delegate counts. In 2012, one might argue, that Newt Gingrich attempted the Southern State approach and lost… but that’s because he lost half of the south to Santorum (not to mention the Midwest). It’s unlikely that Cruz will win South Carolina; so he will need to show some legitimacy in the south by winning or at least picking up delegates from many of these states. Fortunately, Texas is an early primary state this year. It wasn’t until the last day of May in 2012. Romney won with 69% because the election was over. With Texas being an early state and Cruz being tied in November for first in Texas (27%) – it is likely he will win the state. That will create a HUGE shift in momentum. With a Texas win (likely an Oklahoma win (43 delegates) on the same day) and a good showing in these other states (another win or two) and you have Cruz as the probable front runner come March 2nd.
As to those other states
Tennessee went to Santorum on March 6th of 2012 by 10 points (37%) to (28% going to Romney). That’s a very strong conservative win. Georgia is misleading because Gingrich did so well there (his home state), but it was an early state in 2012 and had a large conservative showing. It is very winnable for Cruz. In the last mid-Nov poll Cruz was sitting at 14% in Georgia with Carson leading at 26%. Look for Cruz to bump up quite a bit here. Alabama was another Santorum state that is likely for Cruz to do well. In September Cruz was in 3rd place – but that data is very old at this point.
Virginia is important for a different reason – it isn’t necessarily a conservative state, but a state that supremely important come the election. While it is only 13 electoral votes; it is a swing state that is half southern and half northern. IF Cruz could pull a win here it would show that he can win swing states; not just the south and Texas. In mid-Nov Cruz picked up a little momentum moving into 4th place with 10% (Carson 29%, Trump 24%, and Rubio 11%). Again, the Carson slide means good things for Cruz. Look for him to pick up some points here and be within striking distance.
The Ides of March
March 15th begins the “winner take all” primaries that become supremely important. The GOP changed the rules this year to finish the primary process up earlier rather than later so that the focus can shift to the general election earlier. The 15th of March has some HUGE states.
North Carolina (72)
Florida will be tough because of Rubio. North Carolina was a HUGE no-contest win for Romney in 2012, and the rest are very Mid-West. While March 15th is a long time from February 1st – the two may be closely related. Santorum did VERY well in Ohio (37%), Illinois (35%) and Missouri (55%). That is likely due to him being from the mid-west, but also because he’s appealing to those politics. Conservatism does well there…hence Iowa. The Iowa Caucus winner (Santorum) killed Missouri (early state last year) and did really well in these other states in spite of them being late states last year. This could be good news for Cruz. The Santorum route is set up better this time around because so many of the states he did well in last time around are states that are early this time around.
Did I mention that almost all of these are swing states? Obviously Illinois isn’t – but the rest of these states are. If Cruz wins Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio then I would probably get on right away and call the race over. Any of these states solidifies his ability to win swing states. Florida may not even matter.
1440 to win
So here is where my predictions (at this time) stand for March 2nd (two weeks away from the winner take all states). Trump 292 delegates, Cruz 255, and Rubio 91. With Rubio having only Florida to look forward to at that point, I think he gets out and backs Cruz. That could help boost Cruz in Florida which could be critical. I can’t see Santorum backing anyone other than Cruz – which may be minimally important when it comes to the big mid-west states he did so well in in 2012.
Before March 15th (Super Tuesday) you will have less than 100 votes separating Cruz and Trump by my current predictions. Both being more than 1000 delegates away from a win. 358 are up for grabs on that day alone. I think that we’re trending in a two-horse race should the Donald be serious… Which is always a question. Now imagine if Trump gets out and supports Cruz. Wouldn’t that be fun?
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