Others Rise and Fall, But Paul Consistently Near the Top in Iowa
The newest Iowa poll conducted by The Des Moines Register reflects a trend which has been ongoing since polling for this cycle began. Rand Paul, in second place at 10%, is well within the margin of error of the lead, currently held by Scott Walker at 17%. Ben Carson finished with 10% and both Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush earned 9%.
While it is debatable how important it may be to actually win the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus, history shows that it is imperative to finish in the top 4, as each nominee from both major parties has done so since the quadrennial tradition began in 1972. With a possible field of nearly 20 Republican candidates, a poor showing in Iowa could prove lethal to several campaigns.
With that information in mind, the fact that Senator Paul has consistently remained in double-digits since Iowa polling commenced in mid-2012 becomes all the more important and impressive. Paul enters the contest with a bit of an advantage, as his father came within 4 percentage points (or 4,000 votes) of winning the caucus in 2012. In fact, the legacy that the elder Paul left is best represented by the fact that 22 of the state’s 28 delegates pledged themselves to his campaign.
The 2016 Iowa field will be unique in that it will be first in history to feature 2 different past winners (Huckabee and Rick Santorum), but Paul has shown himself to be one of the favorites to win the caucus. Other candidates’ numbers have fluctuated, yet Paul has steadily maintained a solid core of voters.
For instance, Huckabee topped out at over 20% last year, and Santorum also neared that mark at that point, but both have suffered as new faces have emerged. Likewise, Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz have also seen their numbers range from fairly impressive to rather average.
The newest person in line in the Iowa “stock market” of candidates has been Scott Walker, who now averages nearly 20%, but has seen his numbers begin to decline. As recently as January, Walker was polling at below 5%, showing that his reign is likely unsustainable, and could be very well a limited one.
While others in the field have attempted to push gimmicks and make tabloid headlines, Senator Paul has bided his time, remaining principled and espousing his consistent messages of limited government and individual liberty. As Paul’s Iowa numbers have remained between 9 and 11 percent, what is reflected is not a low ceiling, but rather a high basement. The 2016 campaign has not yet begun, yet Paul already has a large number of Iowans on whom he can rely before he starts recruiting and persuading new ones.
Furthermore, the 2012 cycle in Iowa showed that sudden rises in polling numbers usually precipitated sudden declines as well. Perhaps most interesting of all, 6 different candidates led polling throughout the pre-Iowa period, and none of them actually won the caucus.
If anything, Senator Paul’s numbers thus far most resemble those of Mitt Romney, as Romney remained in second (and sometimes third) place throughout nearly all of 2011, with his numbers never drastically rising or falling. Romney was infamously declared the winner the night of the caucuses, but ultimately fell just short due to a nearly unprecedented and unpredictable late surge by Santorum. Most notable however is that Romney’s success in Iowa was followed by a win in New Hampshire (where Rand Paul is also polling very well), en route to him becoming the eventual Republican nominee.
It is of course rather early to be viewing polls as predictors of an election which is 8 months away. However, we can use history and precedents to deem the significance of these numbers. If we are to do just that, then the future is looking rather bright for the Rand Paul campaign in both Iowa and the 2016 presidential election as a whole.