With just a week to go before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential caucuses, Donald Trump holds a slender lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in a bloody two-man race that could go right down to the wire.
A new Quinnipiac University poll published on Tuesday morning shows the Iowa contest a near statistical tie, with Trump continuing to lead with 31 percent of likely GOP caucus goers to 29 percent for Cruz and just 13 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. No other candidate in the crowded field has more than 7 percent of the likely GOP vote.
The Quinnipiac survey is little changed from its Jan. 11 results and conforms with other recent polls showing Trump holding a narrow lead in the final days of the campaign after trailing Cruz for months. A more extreme Fox News poll published over the weekend put Trump ahead of Cruz, 34 percent to 23 percent.
With much riding on the outcome of the caucuses, Cruz has reverted to the role of underdog after riding high for the past month or two. While he still might pull out a victory at the last minute, he is bucking the state’s Republican political establishment, which appears to be leaning towards Trump. Over the weekend, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) appeared with Trump at a campaign event, while Republican Gov. Terry E. Branstad is doing everything he can to defeat Cruz.
“I can’t guarantee we’ll win,” Cruz told a group of pastors in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, according to The Washington Post. “I don’t know that. That’s out of my hands. I believe we have a path to victory.”
Trump has been dominating the news cycle in Iowa in recent days, with both his relentless attacks against Cruz as a “nasty” politician who may not even be eligible to serve as president and his endorsement last week from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a favorite of tea party activists and conservative Christians. Long-time governor Branstad has also attacked Cruz for his opposition to government support of ethanol production, a mainstay of Iowa’s economy.
Cruz has sought to strike back, with attacks suggesting that Trump is a tool of the establishment and a phony conservative with liberal “New York values” on abortion, gay marriage and other hot button issues within the GOP. He warns that if elected president, Trump would be locked in with the political establishment in Washington.
How this will all play out at the Republican caucuses throughout the state next Tuesday remains to be seen.
“Despite Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump and Gov. Terry Branstad’s criticism of Sen. Ted Cruz, and despite – or because of – Sen. Cruz’ ‘New York values’ comments, the Iowa Republican Caucus remains too close to call,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement.
“It all comes down to turnout. And with four in 10 likely caucus participants saying they still might change their mind, this is an especially volatile race,” Brown added.
According to the new Quinnipiac poll, Cruz leads Trump among tea party members, born again Christians and voters describing themselves as “very conservative.” Trump, meanwhile leads among voters who identify themselves as “somewhat conservative” and others claiming to be moderate or liberal.
The economy and jobs are most important to more than a quarter of likely Republican voters, with 18 percent citing terrorism, 11 percent most concerned about foreign policy and 10 percent most worried about the federal deficit.