Surprises predicted at big GOP caucus night

Ted Cruz stumping in Des Moines —  photo by Gage Skidmore
Senator Ted Cruz stumping in Des Moines — photo by Gage Skidmore

Jeff Kaufmann, the chair of the Iowa GOP, predicted a “surprise” or two on caucus night. Instead of the traditional three tickets out of Iowa, Kaufmann said in an interview on Monday that there could be as many as five candidates gaining some momentum in Iowa. “We may have a surprise in third that of the five out of the 12 that are the lowest in the polls right now. I believe one of them will make a pretty significant leap,” he said.

For years, pundits have repeated the conventional line about “win, place or show” in Iowa, but Kaufmann’s prediction is not without some historical basis. In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain finished fourth in Iowa before becoming the eventual nominee.

Kaufmann’s prediction is not exactly an endorsement of Iowa’s prowess at winnowing the field but demonstrates the state’s significant contribution especially considering the plethora of 2016 GOP applicants for the Oval Office (12 GOP candidates are still standing in the corn state).

Kaufmann also responded to comments from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus who repeated the call for scrutiny of Iowa and New Hampshire’s first (and second) in the nation status.

“Every four years, there’s some state that puts in a resolution to strip our first-state status and every four years we have to make the case again. He [Preibus] just basically stated what we know is happening,” Kaufmann said.

He said there was no way to predict how many Iowa Republicans would turn out on Feb. 1, but was confident numbers would be big. In 2012, a record 120,000 people caucused for GOP candidates.

“I would be amazed if we were under the 120,000 water mark, and I would not be surprised if we were at 150,000 or more,” he said.

With less than two weeks to go until the caucuses, polls show Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are tied for the lead in Iowa, with Marco Rubio in a distant third.

Many are questioning the commitment of Trump fans and his “ground game” in Iowa. His fans are hoping he won’t be relegated to the list of caucus winners who didn’t fare so well, and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio hope that a weak finish by Trump will boost them in the next phase of the primary season.