Iowa Caucus: The Numbers to Watch
We know who's going to win, but that's only part of the story
No campaign trail event garners more attention than the Iowa Caucus. The run-up lasts more than a year. The candidates barnstorm the state, often visiting all 99 counties to attend small events at VFW halls and Pizza Ranch restaurants (Yes, this a real place). The press spends months crisscrossing Iowa in rented cars, talking to potential caucus-goers, and broadcasting live from various fairs and conventions. Hundreds of staffers sweep the ground for months knocking on doors; and tens of millions of dollars have been transferred from the bank accounts of campaigns and Super PACs to the pockets of Iowa TV station owners. All of that time, effort, and money finds its purpose tonight and as a couple hundred thousand Iowans go to gyms and community centers to pick their nominee.
All the build up may end in a whimper. The polls suggest that even if Trump underperforms in the polls, he will win by a historically large margin.
Even if there is minimal drama, the results will give some insight into how the rest of the Republican primary may play out. Here’s what I will be watching for tonight as the results come in.
1. Does Trump Meet Expectations?
The early primaries and caucuses are not about delegates. Only 40 of the more than 1200 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination are at stake tonight. It’s all about getting momentum to carry a candidate forward, and momentum comes from beating expectations. Trump heads into Caucus Night with a 28-point lead, according to the vaunted Des Moines Register/NBC poll. If his margin of victory falls short, the press and political chattering class will interpret that result as a loss for Trump even though he may have come in first by 15 points.