We’re still several weeks away from the Iowa Caucus, but barring a meltdown, the GOP race is already over there. The winner will be Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas. And it won’t be close.
This may seem like an easy prognostication to make, given Cruz’s recent surge to the top of the polls in Iowa. But it’s not the topline poll results that make me so sure — it’s the numbers below the topline that tell the whole story.
In the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg politics poll, Cruz took a surprisingly large lead with 31 percent of the vote. He leads Donald Trump with 21 percent, Ben Carson with 13 percent, Marco Rubio with 10 percent, and Jeb Bush with 6 percent. This result can also be backed up by the latest Fox News Iowa poll, which gave Cruz a marginally smaller lead over Trump with 28 percent of the vote.
But in looking at the Des Moines Register poll, I noticed two things:
1.) Iowa Republicans LOVE Ted Cruz.
Using the Frank Cannon Metric — i.e. net favorability — we can see that Ted Cruz is the most palatable candidate in Iowa to GOP voters.
Voters were asked, “For each [candidate], please tell me if your feelings are very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable.”
Grouping together “very favorable” with “mostly favorable” and “mostly unfavorable” with “very unfavorable,” we get these numbers:
- Ted Cruz: +54 (73 favorable, 19 unfavorable)
- Ben Carson: +50 (72 favorable, 22 unfavorable)
- Marco Rubio: +49 (70 favorable, 21 unfavorable)
- Carly Fiorina: +19 (52 favorable, 33 unfavorable)
- Donald Trump: +19 (57 favorable, 38 unfavorable)
- Mike Huckabee: +15 (53 favorable, 38 unfavorable)
- Chris Christie: +4 (46 favorable, 42 unfavorable)
- Rick Santorum: -1 (42 favorable, 43 unfavorable)
- Rand Paul: -13 (37 favorable, 50 unfavorable)
- Jeb Bush: -15 (39 favorable, 54 unfavorable)
- John Kasich: -27 (19 favorable, 46 unfavorable)
- Lindsey Graham: -37 (16 favorable, 53 unfavorable)
Ted Cruz scores incredibly well here, but he looks even better when you un-group the results. Cruz was seen as “very favorable” to 43 percent of the electorate. No one else scored above 30.
This is the key difference between Trump’s former lead in the polls and Cruz’s current lead. Trump can only appeal to about 60 percent of the GOP electorate — the other 40 percent despises him. Cruz still has a lot more ground he can gain — 73 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him. He is simultaneously Iowa’s most favored and least unfavored candidate.
2.) Ted Cruz Is Everyone’s Second Choice
Cruz is also the top second choice among voters, which makes sense logically given his high favorability score. Cruz earned an additional 20 percent when grouping first and second choices, bringing him up to 51 percent. And again, nobody came close:
Below are the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg politics poll results when combining first and second choices:
- Ted Cruz: 51 percent (31-20)
- Donald Trump: 35 percent (21-14)
- Ben Carson: 27 percent (13-14)
- Marco Rubio: 24 percent (10-14)
- Jeb Bush: 11 percent (6-5)
- Mike Huckabee: 8 percent (3-5)
- Chris Christie: 6 percent (3-3)
- Rand Paul: 6 percent (3-3)
- Carly Fiorina: 5 percent (1-4)
- John Kasich: 4 percent (2-2)
- Rick Santorum: 3 percent (1-2)
It will be interesting to see if this pattern holds, but as the Carson balloon deflates, Cruz sure seems to be the one benefiting the most. It’s hard to imagine Trump (or Rubio for that matter) catching him in Iowa unless something significant happens.
Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for the American Principles Project.