The Iowa Caucus has been at the forefront of voter minds as well as anyone interested in political theater for about the last six months.
Since it emerged that Donald Trump was not just joking and had a serious shot of winning the candidacy for the Republican party, people on both sides of the aisle have watched with fascination.
But now that it’s here, it’s time to separate political fantasy and, in some cases, wishful thinking from reality. In that spirit, here are six major things to watch out for in the Iowa Caucus.
1. Donald Trump will get the highest percentage of votes, but not by as much as polls are indicating.
A recent ABC News article cited that Donald Trump was “surprised by his own lead” one day ahead of the Iowa Caucus. While most are in agreement that he has the upper hand, it’s probably not the “24 points” indicated in the piece linked above.
The reality is probably closer to what Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register recently reported in their last poll before the election.
According to that, Trump leads Ted Cruz 28 percent to 23 percent. Marco Rubio and Ben Carson are distant third and fourth places with 15 percent and 10 percent of the vote, respectively.
2. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will not win, but they will be able to justify staying in the race.
The Iowa Caucus isn’t a foolproof indication that whoever wins will earn the nomination, so it’s important to watch the second and third place positions to see what type of foundation these runner-up candidates can build upon.
Cruz and Rubio’s stars are on the rise, but Rubio has the most to gain because he has the GOP establishment fighting in his favor.
Cruz is ranked so highly because voter perception is that he’s similar to Trump in a lot of ways — namely from the “outsider” perspective.
What pundits are currently seeing is a GOP divided. The establishment wants their candidates to win, but the majority of voters are skewing harder to the right, and that means that Trump and Cruz are the true frontrunners.
But in Cruz’ case, he has been unable to out-Trump Donald Trump thus far, and that could mean his numbers are as high as they’re likely to reach.
3. Ben Carson’s zeppelin is crashing, and the votes will show that.
At one time, the low energy of Ben Carson served as the perfect foil to Trump’s boisterous antics. But after the Iowa Caucus is over, it will be clear just how far Carson’s star has fallen.
With former campaign staffers speaking out and Carson piling up a reputation as “the sleepy candidate,” one gets the sense that he doesn’t even want the job anymore.
4. More dropouts are ahead.
It’s likely that you’ve seen the last undercard debate you’re going to see. The Iowa Caucus will be a good chance to affirm the lack of movement in candidacies like those of Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.
Expect the “undercard” guys to bow out once it’s clear where voters in Iowa stand.
5. Jeb Bush won’t call it a day just yet, but probably should.
Bush hasn’t been a candidate the GOP voters are excited about. Trump has successfully labeled him as a “low energy” guy, and he’s too saddled to the legacies of his one-term father and unpopular two-term brother.
Bush has raised too much in funding to bow out after one vote, but his chances aren’t improving, and the Iowa Caucus will likely affirm that with just 5 percent of the vote, he needs to bow out now.
6. Hillary Clinton will lose to Bernie Sanders.
The Democrats only get one entry on this Iowa Caucus preview because theirs is a much cleaner race to follow. No 458 candidates vying for the same slot, in other words.
The one big surprise that will come from this is Bernie Sanders’ victory. The polling is very close, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise if Sanders trumps Clinton, but it will be because it will likely be the beginning of the end for the woman, who was once presumed the probable Democratic nominee.
Clinton simply has too many trust issues with voters, and the email thing is a huge distraction in light of the FBI’s ongoing investigation and some of their findings thus far. The New York Times reports that 22 of the emails found so far on Clinton’s private server were deemed “too classified to be made public.”
So there you have it, Iowa Caucus voters (and watchers). Which of these picks do you think will end up coming true? Sound off in the comments section below.