DES MOINES, IA – The experience of 2012 shows that, regardless of what the campaign might say, winning (by whatever margin) is important to the Ted Cruz campaign today. Think back to the 2012 campaign, when it was expected that Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were going to battle it out for first in the Iowa caucuses. Everyone knew Rick Santorum was charging, but no one knew exactly where he would end up.
Rick Santorum stunned everyone, though, by beating Mitt Romney. That’s what everyone remembers about the 2012 Iowa caucuses. That’s what everyone remembered even in 2012, as Santorum used his win in Iowa to catapult himself to first place in the race. Soon enough after Iowa, it became a two man race with Mitt Romney.
How much did Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney by? A whopping 34 votes. That is what people forget. Essentially, Santorum finished completely tied with Romney. If Santorum had lost to Mitt Romney by 34 votes, that would have been a statistically insignificant difference in his actual performance in Iowa.
However, it would have made a huge difference in the amount of “bounce” Santorum would have gotten coming out of Iowa. Finishing a “strong second” would not have catapulted Santorum as high as he eventually rose. And that’s even given the fact that he was expected to finish third.
Cruz, on the other hand, comes in with expectations that he will finish no worse than second. Iowa is particularly well suited to his appeal, and he has poured a ton of money and effort into winning it. Cruz’s appeal suits evangelicals better than possibly any other group in the country. Finishing second won’t hurt Cruz, but it also won’t give him the help he needs to challenge Trump nationally, and it will likewise encourage the rest of the field to stick around longer, which in the end helps Trump.
Iowa isn’t a make-or-break state for Cruz, but he more than the other candidates needs a win, even if it is by a few votes, for the PR value that a win would bring.
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