The latest Monmouth poll in Iowa shows Trump up by 7 percent over Cruz among “likely caucus attendees.” But the assumptions behind the poll numbers present a very shaky case.
Since Trump draws a disproportionate amount of support from voters who are not political diehards, he will need a strong turnout to emerge victorious on February 1st. Based on past voting history and voters’ stated intentions to attend this year’s caucuses, the current poll estimates turnout will be approximately 170,000 voters, which would far surpass the 122,000 record GOP turnout from four years ago. Increasing the poll’s turnout projection to 200,000 voters widens Trump’s lead to 32% over 21% for Cruz, with Rubio at 16% and Carson at 9%. Decreasing the turnout projection to 130,000 voters, which would still be a record level, puts the race in a tie at 26% for Trump and 26% for Cruz, with Rubio at 15% and Carson at 12%.
Really, so in order to justify Trump’s lead, somehow 50,000 more caucus attendees will have to show up and vote for Trump than have ever shown up before. Trump has 12 paid staffers in Iowa, led by Tana Goetz, a 48-year-old former runner up on “The Apprentice.” Wow, what raw horsepower.
One volunteer leader enlisted by Donald J. Trump to turn out Iowa voters has yet to knock on a single door or to make a phone call. Another is a “9/11 truther” with a website claiming that the Sept. 11 attacks were a government conspiracy. A third caucus precinct captain, who like the others attended a training session in West Des Moines last month, said the campaign’s goal of having them each enlist 25 supporters was unrealistic.
Cruz has over 1,000 precinct chairs, a 240-plus person leadership team and over 5,000 volunteers in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties (all of which Cruz has pledged to visit before the caucuses, and it looks like he’ll make it happen). They’re led by seasoned professionals such as Jake Dagel, who was field director for Turning Point USA.
So, all this heat and light coming off the Trump campaign is based on people answering pollster questions on the phone.
Interviewer: “Are you going to attend the caucus?”
Trump supporter: “Yeah, I’ll go to the caucus.”
“Have you gone before?”
“Yeah, once in 1988. I supported Reagan.”
“B…but Reagan wasn’t even…”
“Yeah man! Trump! Trump! USA! USA!”
Okay, mark that as a “likely caucus attendee.” Now extrapolate that over all of Iowa and put it in a spreadsheet. It’s one thing to answer a phone call. It’s quite another to show up before 7 p.m. on the dot at a specific location, produce I.D. and voter registration confirmation, and spend an hour to cast your vote for a candidate.
It’s possible this will be a record-breaking Iowa caucus turnout, but to assume that as part of a poll…well, that’s counting on a miracle.