Nine Days and Counting: What Candidates Face at the Iowa Caucus

As the Iowa caucuses near, the political tension between Republican frontrunners Cruz and Trump, as well as between Democratic candidates Clinton and Sanders, is palpable.

By Rhonda FanningJanuary 22, 2016 12:15 pm|

There are only nine days left until decision day in Iowa. It’s the first shot that will set the stage for the rest of the presidential nominating process.

On the Republican side, the U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is still within striking distance of the juggernaut that is Donald Trump. Although, a recent issues of the National Review has a roster of 22 major conservatives all coming out strongly against Trump.

The latest average of Iowa polls of Republicans from Real Clear Politics has Trump with 29 percent support and Ted Cruz with 26.4 percent, a spread of just 2.6 percentage points.

Heading into the second-to-last weekend of campaigning, now is a critical time for Cruz to close that gap and slingshot himself into the March primaries that include many southern states and the great state of Texas.

Ben Philpott, senior political reporter at KUT Austin, will be boarding a plane to Iowa this weekend to follow Cruz in those final days before the caucuses. Philpott and Victoria DeFrancesco, a political scientist at the University of Texas whose research includes political marketing and psychology, join the Standard to talk politics.

An editorial in the National Review calls Trump a “menace to conservatism.” Philpott on how this negative attention weighs alongside Sarah Palin’s endorsement:

“No one has questioned Sarah Palin’s conservative credentials, whereas that’s what they’re trying to do constantly with Donald Trump.”

DeFrancesco on how Trump mobilizes people who don’t normally get involved in politics:

“I think that he has broadened the universe of political actors. That’s why we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the primaries…. We’re seeing a flood of new participants who previously had sat on the sidelines.

“Meanwhile, in the Democratic ring, Iowa is no less significant for the future of the party. The Real Clear Politics averaging of the latest polls of Democrats shows Hillary Clinton just three points ahead of Bernie Sanders – 46 percent to 43 percent in Iowa.”

Philpott on how U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and former Texas Sen. Wendy Davis supporting Clinton benefits her campaign:

“Democratic activists – yeah, they know who these people are…. We have to remember the big difference between Iowa and New Hampshire: 70 percent of people are gonna vote in New Hampshire. Maybe about 10 to15 percent are gonna show up on caucus night in Iowa.”

DeFrancesco on the difference between Clinton’s 2008 campaign and her 2016 one:

“The bigger issue that Hilary Clinton faces, and has faced, is that cloud of the emails, that cloud of Benghazi. It is something that for the hardcore democratic Hilary supporters doesn’t matter. But for people who are sitting on the fence and saying, ‘Well I like what Bernie Sanders says. I know Hilary Clinton is smart and pragmatic, but (question) past Clinton ordeals. It’s baggage that (Sanders is) dragging her down.”