Panning for nuggets in Iowa

Ann Selzer’s Iowa poll is out, and there are a few points worth making.  Cruz has slipped a bit, but a 25-22 lead over Trump means he’s still in good shape.  The attacks have had their effect, costing him six points.

But those votes didn’t go to the Donald.  He’s only up one.  That’s Trump’s pattern in Iowa: stability.  Over the course of six months he’s gone from 23 to 19 to 21 and now to 22.  It looks like he’s got a loyal following, but a ceiling as well.  And if his appeal does fade, Cruz is positioned to benefit:  47% of Trump voters say Cruz is their second choice.

Rubio is in the second tier with the rapidly fading Carson, quite a ways back from the top two.  He looks like he could coast to a third place finish.  That’s certainly respectable, and would mean he’s the winner of the establishment lane going into New Hampshire.  I don’t think it makes sense for Marco to try to do any better than third.  He’s better off concentrating on New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The same goes for Kasich, Christie and Bush.  Forget about Iowa.  Fight for New Hampshire.  Paul, Huckabee and Santorum are fighting for breath.  It’s over for them, and everybody knows it.  Their voters are more in tune with Cruz than anyone else.  And Cruz is the second choice of 23% of those who don’t support him, higher than anyone else.

Helpfully, Selzer included a question on Cruz’s  stand on ethanol, or the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  42% find it mostly or very unattractive, but 37% say it’s mostly or very attractive.  So at least 37% of Iowa Republicans are aware that RFS is a boondoggle, and are  more likely to vote for him on this issue than against him.  That’s a lot of votes in a crowded field.  The downside is that 18% say his opposition to RFS is very unattractive.  But those people are not coalescing behind one other candidate.  Everybody but Paul and Cruz  are for RFS, so they have a lot of places to go.

Being an old pro, Selzer has devised what she calls a “Selzer Score”, which reflects a candidate’s overall strength.  In her long experience, it’s the  most accurate gauge of a candidate’s standing in Iowa.  Cruz leads with a score of 89.5, with Trump second at 67.  Have you ever noticed that you’re better off going with local knowledge, as opposed to general rules of thumb?  I have, and Selzer has more Iowa smarts than anyone at 538 or anywhere else.  Cruz is sitting pretty in Iowa right now.

So what’s a Cruz Super-Pac to do?  The poll asks what is the most important trait a voter looks for in a candidate.  By far number one, at 72%, are the candidate’s values.

What does his flippant support of partial birth abortion tell us about Donald Trump’s inner core, his basic values?

Does he really have any, besides winning?



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