Trump Overtakes Cruz and Clinton Holds Her Lead in Final Survey From Top Iowa Pollster

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Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Campaigns In Eastern Iowa
Iowans keep getting crazier for Donald Trump. Photo: Joe Raedle/2016 Getty Images

The final pre-Caucus Iowa Poll from Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics arrived via an unusual live-release event reminiscent of the revelation of March Madness NCAA basketball tournament brackets. Its results were only maddening, though, to those hoping for a big upset.

Selzer has Hillary Clinton holding a 3 percent margin over Bernie Sanders (she led by 2 in the last Register poll earlier this month). It appears preferences are relatively stable. As has been the case all along, Sanders has a robust lead among first-time Caucus-goers, but they represent only about a third of likely participants, as compared to 60 percent when Barack Obama beat Clinton in 2008 via a huge turnout. And while Sanders’s base includes both men and women under 30, Clinton has a better than 2-to-1 lead among seniors — still the most likely voters to show up Monday night — and desire for a woman to become president seems more intense than a passion for the kind of political revolution Sanders promises.

Among Republicans, the Iowa Poll confirms the conventional wisdom that Donald Trump has overtaken Ted Cruz; he leads Cruz 28 to 23 percent, reversing a 25 to 22 percent Cruz lead in the last Selzer poll. But the bit of conventional wisdom passionately hoped for by many establishment Republicans — a Marco Rubio surge past Cruz into second place — just ain’t happening. He’s at 15 percent, with no particular signs of momentum, unless you believe Selzer missed some sort of very late, debate-driven change (this poll was still in the field yesterday, though). Despite being written off for weeks, Ben Carson’s still around 10 percent and Rand Paul is at 5 percent. The rest of the field, establishment and conservative evangelical alike, is down in the very low single digits. Hard to see how anyone other than the top three gets any “bump” in New Hampshire.

It seems a higher percentage of Republicans (40 percent) than Democrats may be first-time Caucus-goers, and both Trump and Cruz do well with those people.

With weather expected to be relatively good in most of the state Monday night, turnout could go even higher than this polls suggests, which would presumably help Trump and possibly Cruz, and probably Sanders. But all in all, Selzer has quieted rumors of unexpected craziness, aside from the craziness already baked into the cake when Donald Trump bids fair to walk away with a victory in what has generally been considered his worst state.