On the first episode of his Late Show, host Stephen Colbert joked, “As long as I have nine months to make one hour of TV, I can do this forever.” The same attitude can be applied to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first nominating states in the presidential election. Candidates spend more time in those states in the others because of the luxury of time and because if they do not do well in Iowa, they make not make it to other states. Iowa especially is critical to the campaigns of Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz.
Senator Sanders is currently leading in New Hampshire by a comfortable margin, but that does not make Iowa any less important. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading by a wide margin in South Carolina and there are demographics at play. Iowa and New Hampshire for Democrats are largely made up of white voters whom Sanders does well with. The rest of the nation does not look like this for Democrats. South Carolina is predominantly black, a group Sanders has struggled with. One of the arguments Clinton fans have cited and the campaign has used is “electability.” However, Sanders could discredit this by defeating her in both of the early nominating states. If he eliminates that argument, he could get some voters to give him a look. If Clinton wins Iowa, he cannot remove that argument and she can continue along with fewer problems. Iowa and New Hampshire are anomalies in the Democratic Party, so Sanders needs to show he can win those anomalies.
Cruz is in a similar position on the Republican side. Of the non-Iowa and New Hampshire state polls that exist (of which there are few), Trump tends to lead overwhelmingly. Iowa is the only state where Trump is relatively weak. Trump has had to fight for the lead against Cruz and, earlier, Dr. Ben Carson, but has come back. If Trump wins Iowa, there is a significant question for his opponents of where else to challenge him. Senator Marco Rubio and former Governor Jeb Bush’s home state of Florida? Trump leads there. Trump also leads in Governor John Kasich’s home state of Ohio. Polling is unavailable for Texas, Cruz’s home state. If Cruz wishes to challenge Trump, he needs to find a state to do it. Iowa represents his best opportunity, but polling shows that that opportunity may be slipping away.
Stick with TKNN for continuing coverage of the Iowa caucus and the presidential election.