This is according to a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, which has Trump 28%, Cruz 23%, Rubio 15%, and Carson 10%. If the poll is reweighed to reflect evangelical turnout in 2012, then it has Trump and Cruz neck and neck. The only two bits of good news from the poll is the combined first/second choice score, which is Trump 35%, Cruz 40%, Rubio 35%, and Carson 21%; and, the fact that 45% of the people polled say that they have yet to really make up their minds.
Basically, what appears to be happening is that Rubio is rising in the polls by taking away support from Cruz, while Trump has seen a slight increase in support. (The people polled said that if it were a race between only Cruz and Trump, 53% would choose Cruz, while only 35% would choose Trump, which appears to be his true ceiling of support.)
Earlier this week, I posted that I thought Cruz would win this primary. Now, I am not so sure. If Rubio is rising by taking away support from Cruz, then Trump has a real chance to win in Iowa. Indeed, FiveThirtyEight had until a days ago predicted a Cruz victory in Iowa, but now shows Trump edging ahead.
FiveThirtyEight notes that the primary calendar is front loaded with states that are favorable for Trump and Cruz, and that there could still be a chance for any one of the three men, Trump, Cruz, or Rubio, to win, or for there to be a brokered convention. Of course, Nate Silver and his crew may be whistling past the graveyard on this one. Once a campaign starts to build momentum, it is often quite difficult to stop, and I have never before seen a GOP and conservative establishment so willing to fold before a candidate as they have before Trump. It appears that some of their weaknesses towards Trump are pure calculation–they don’t really think Trump can win, and are just using him to punish people they don’t like. Others are just morally and intellectually weak. Whatever the case, those who are refusing to fight against Trumpism are playing with fire. Historically, demagogues like Trump have been able to come to power in exactly these kinds of circumstances.
My earnest hope is that the people of Iowa will realize the stakes, and adopt the common sense approach of ignoring the lower-tier candidates and voting for either Cruz or Rubio, in order to keep Trump from running away with things. (I am on record as a Fiorina supporter, but realistically she can’t win.) There is a precedent for such a thing. In the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses, caucus goers broke late for John Kerry because they though he was more electable than a seemingly deranged Howard Dean and a stiff and boring Dick Gephardt, effectively derailing their campaigns.
Short of this, it is past time for many of the GOP candidates to drop out in support of a non-Trump alternative. People need to put their egos aside and place their country first.