Is Ted Cruz the New Favorite?

A new FoxNews poll shows that [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] has pulled into a virtual tie with Trump in Iowa, as Carson continues to tumble headlong out of the picture. Trump registers 25% in the poll, followed by 23% for Cruz, 18% for Carson, 13% for Rubio, then the also-rans far behind. It looks an awful lot at this point like [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] has to be considered the prohibitive favorite in Iowa – he has a ton of money to spend in a state where spending money can actually do you some good, he is building a ground organization where almost no one else is, and he is capitalizing on Carson’s recent foreign policy follies.

There’s a long way to go before February 1st, but it would be a surprise at this point if anyone other than [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] won Iowa.

Now of course, winning Iowa does not make you the favorite to win the nomination, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum can attest. But it definitely helps. Winning the first contest provides a national boost in a candidates’ poll standing, as Huckabee was catapulted to “last man standing” against McCain and Santorum likewise enjoyed a brief national lead. If Cruz comes into Iowa in third or fourth place and walks away with an unexpectedly easy victory, it can only help his national chances.

This is the problem that I have right now with [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s strategy, which seems to basically be to finish respectably in IA, NH, and SC. There doesn’t seem to be an early state that he’s making a concerted push for until Florida on March 15th. Six weeks is a long time in an election news cycle to go without a victory – Especially if Cruz wins Iowa and turns the momentum from that win into a South Carolina win (assuming Trump or someone else wins NH).

The Primary process has greatly changed in the last 8 years and all the old rules don’t necessarily still apply, but it’s difficult to see a candidate who doesn’t score a win before Florida ultimately pulling off a victory, even given Rubio’s significant political skill. That’s simply too many news cycles where the press will be talking about everyone else for any candidate to live through it.

Cruz right now is making a bet that, despite everything that’s changed, winning Iowa is still a great way to kick off a national campaign, and it may very well be that his bet will pay off.