Cruz Surges to First Place in Iowa

Ted Cruz, 2016 Presidential Candidate

Photo by Ralph Barrera, for AP

Cruz Surges to First Place in Iowa

| published December 14, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


Though nationally Donald Trump remains in first place among those who identify themselves as Republicans, the race for GOP nomination for President remains fluid and ever-shifting.

Over the weekend, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has soared past other runners-up to become Trump’s most serious challenger, passing one-time front-runner Dr. Ben Carson, and slipping past others who have variously jockeyed for second and third positions, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina.

And Cruz now leads in Iowa by a substantial margin, ahead of Trump by some 11 points, and pushing Carson—once the Iowa leader as recently as six week ago—into a distant third place.

Several polls have confirmed the surge by Cruz, including the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg and NBC News. The polls also indicate that Cruz is beginning to channel support across a range wider than some experts previously predicted, winning not just among Tea Partiers and movement conservatives, but also among the college educated and among those in Iowa who did not graduate from college.

The fluidity and rapidly-shifting polls, some experts believe, may indicate a substantial restlessness on the part of mainstream conservatives—some of whom are unable to fix their support wholeheartedly on Trump, but may be shopping around among other top tier and second tier candidates to find their comfort zone. Cruz is one of several GOP candidates who has challenged—even briefly surpassed—the billionaire businessman in his bid for the White House. Cruz has gained some at the expense of both Carson and Rubio, but the new polls show he has made deep inroads into Trump’s once solid support among the anti-Washington, anti-establishment movement within the Republican Party.

CNN will host a debate on Tuesday, at which time Trump will still retain his coveted spot at center stage. But for the first time this year Cruz will be next to Trump. The debate will also again include New Jersey Governor Chris Christy, whose polls numbers have again improved slightly—enough, at least, to nudge him up enough to meet the agreed upon qualifying criteria to appear in the prime-time debate, and not in the undercard earlier in the afternoon.

Cruz and Trump have maintained a détente in which neither candidate spoke ill of the other. Beginning late last week, the gloves came off for both candidates. Cruz tactfully, but bluntly, criticized Trump for his controversial comments favoring a temporary ban on allowing Muslims to enter the United States. Cruz has, like several Republicans, called Trump’s proposal banning Muslims and imposing a religious test at borders and airports unconstitutional. Trump has retorted in the harshest language, calling Cruz “crazy” and citing Cruz’s unlikability among fellow members of the U.S. Senate.

Some observers say that Cruz, now taking heavy incoming fire from Trump for the first time, may decide himself to take on Trump directly during this week’s debate, challenging Trump’s qualifications to be commander-in-chief, a point which Cruz has repeatedly made on the campaign trail in recent days.

Also appearing in the debate will be Bush, Fiorina, Rubio, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. As of this writing it was not clear that CNN would include Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in Tuesday’s debate. CNN’s criteria states that candidates must achieve an average of at least four percent in at least three major polls (chosen by CNN) in New Hampshire and Iowa during the previous three weeks, or, pull in poll numbers of at least 3.5 percent nationally during the previous four weeks. Set to appear in the afternoon debate: former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former New York Governor George Pataki, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. In November, former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal dropped out of the race.

Still struggling to regain his footing is Bush, once the party’s de facto front-runner and the early on fundraising leader. Bush, like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, saw the field disrupted after Trump entered the race and added fuel to an already deeply anti-establishment mood among Republicans. Walker dropped out of the race in the late summer after he fell to single digits in national polls and saw his fundraising dry up.

CNN will broadcast the GOP debate from Las Vegas, Nevada on Tuesday night. This will be the last time all major Republican candidates meet on stage for a live debate prior to the Iowa caucuses. For several candidates, it will be their final opportunity to find a way to break out of the crowded pack.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Republicans Consider Possibility of Convention Battles; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; December 11, 2015.

Trump’s Call to Bans Muslims Sparks Backlash; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; December 10, 2015.