The final Des Moines Register Poll conducted by Seltzer & Co. gives Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the edge headed into the Iowa caucus on Monday. On the Republican side, Trump leads with 28%, while his closest rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has fallen to 23%. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has climbed to 15% with the support of the remaining moderate GOP caucus-goers.
But, according to the pollster, there’s still a decent chance for Cruz in this race based on him being more popular and respected by Iowans overall. I’m less sure.
“The drill-down shows, if anything, stronger alignment with Cruz than Trump, except for the horse race,” said J. Ann Selzer, the pollster for the Des Moines Register Poll.
While Cruz and Rubio are strong second choice candidates for caucus-goers, Trump has smaller room for error. Still, though the poll shows only a slight increase in first-time caucus-goers, Trump leads both with Iowans who say they’ll definitely vote and those who will probably vote, and if the percentage of the electorate who self-describe as evangelical increases to 60%, The Donald still ekes out the win. Trump gets 26% of their support and Cruz gets 25%.
Entrance polls in 2012 showed their share at roughly 57%, and Trump’s voters are just more solid than Cruz voters. Seventy-one percent say their minds are made up, which is 10 points higher than Cruz’s supporters. Among those who could still be persuaded to pick a different candidate, it’s very close. Cruz leads slightly, then Trump and Rubio right behind.
“Turnout seems not to affect him,” Selzer said. “Either way, he seems on solid ground.”
Trump now leads on the PPD average of Iowa Republican Caucus Polls by 6.3%.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton maintains a small advantage over socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton leads Sanders with 45% of Democratic caucus-goers to 42%, though she trails as a second choice by 26% to 28%. Hillary’s strength is also in the firmness of her supporters, with 83% of Clinton’s caucus supporters saying they have made up their minds going into Monday’s vote, up from 69% earlier this month.
“That’s huge,” Selzer said. “That’s a number any candidate would like to see.”
By contrast, only 69% of Sanders supporters in the caucus say the same.
Clinton now leads on the PPD average of Iowa Democratic Caucus Polls by 3.3%.
We have been trying to gauge this race in large part by the number of new caucus-goers Donald Trump may have been able to pull in on Monday night. To some extent, we’ve heard conflicting reports. But looking at the data in the last five polls and something jumps out at us: he doesn’t really need a huge boom of new caucus-goers to win this thing.
That said, Ann Selzer knows her state. One poll isn’t the end all be all and, as I explained earlier this week, Iowans have a habit of surprising us all in at least once caucus each cycle. However, at least on the Republican side of the race, anecdotal evidence from election officials and our surveys tell us there are enough new caucus-goers to give Trump more than a better chance to make history by being the first candidate in the modern Republican Party as we know it today to run the table in the early voting states.