Donald Trump Has Completely Reversed Ted Cruz’s Lead In Iowa

After grabbing a lead at the end of last year, Ted Cruz has seen Donald Trump completely reverse fortunes in Iowa with just one week to go before voting starts.

Trump Cruz Debate

As 2015 drew to a close, Texas Senator Ted Cruz appeared to be pulling ahead in the polling in Iowa to the point where he had a four point lead over Donald Trump in the polling average and many pundits began to openly talk about Cruz winning in the Hawkeye State and then going on to build up a strong juggernaut through the rest of February and on into the SEC Primary in early March. This continued in the first polls taken after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, which showed the race in Iowa tightening to some extent, but with Cruz still showing a strong lead. At that point, though, things began to change. Specifically, Trump, who had previously taken a hands-off approach toward Cruz that was markedly different from the manner in which he treated other candidates, began to take direct aim at the Texas Senator in an obvious effort to bring him down. The part of Trump’s attack that garnered the most attention, of course, was the suggestion that Cruz’s Canadian birth could pose problems for the GOP if the Texas Senator ended up being the party nominee. While Trump’s birther attack on Cruz was largely rejected by other candidates, it did appear from polling that the “questions” Trump was raising were having an impact on a not insignificant segment of Iowa voters, and thus an impact on the race. Trump also attacked Cruz as “a nasty guy” who “nobody likes,” and suggested that it would be impossible for a President Cruz to work together with Congress to get anything done given the fact that he has such as bad personal relationship with so many people in Congress. By the middle of the month, it was becoming apparent that all of these attacks were having an impact on the race in the Hawkeye State, and that Senator Cruz may have peaked too early.

Now, with one week left before the Iowa Caucuses, we find that Trump has completely reversed Cruz’s lead in Iowa and widened the gap between them:

Earlier this month, Fox News released a poll showing Ted Cruz leading Donald Trump by four points. The two had a sizable lead over everyone else in the state, and the poll was confirming what others were showing: Cruz had an advantage.

On Sunday, Fox released another Iowa poll, with substantially different results. Now, Trump is up by 11 points, a 15-point swing in the two weeks between surveys. This poll, too, mirrors the recent trend: Trump has regained the advantage.

It’s still a surprising development. Trump’s gained a lot, across the board, while most of his competitors have slipped. Cruz is still over-performing with conservatives and tea partiers (meaning that his support among those groups is 11 and seven points higher than his overall support), but Trump gained 11 and 17 points with those groups over the past two weeks. Cruz’s support among the groups fell.

So what’s going on? This is the same polling firm and the same methodology. But the voter pool is slightly different.

Two weeks ago, the percentage of respondents saying they would “definitely” go out and caucus on Feb. 1 was 59 percent. In this new poll, that dropped to 54 percent, meaning a 10-point swing toward those who would say they will “probably” go to the caucus. Two weeks ago, Trump trailed Cruz by six points among those who would probably vote. Now he leads with that group by 15 — more than his overall lead against Cruz.

But that’s risky for him. As we’ve noted, self-reporting of whether people will get to the polls is not always accurate and tends to depend on past voting behavior more than anything. In the new Fox poll, Trump gets 34 percent of Iowans, but 43 percent of those who will be going to caucus for the first time. Perhaps they will. But people who haven’t voted before are a lot less likely to vote than people who vote all the time, for perhaps obvious reasons.

Again, Trump’s gains are across the board, but he’s doing much better with a group of voters that seems less likely to vote. He could certainly win Iowa by an 11-point margin, but that depends on his people turning out — and on his having an operation to encourage them to do so (which the New York Times reports he doesn’t).

Notwithstanding the caveats noted above, about which I’ll have more in a moment, it’s worth noting that Trump has also seen his numbers increase in recent polling from sources other than Fox News, such as CBS News/YouGov and CNN/ORC to the point where the RealClearPolitics average for the state now shows Trump with a 5.2 point lead over Cruz and the trend lines seem to be clearly favoring the New York City businessman over the Texas Senator: (Trump is the blue line and Cruz is the black line in this chart)

RCP Iowa 12216

As the linked article notes, of course, the thing we don’t know about Iowa is the extent to which Trump is going to be able to translate poll numbers into support at the caucuses next Monday. As I’ve discussed before, the get out the vote effort is perhaps the most important part of the campaign at this point and that is even more the case in a caucus state like Iowa where voters must go out at night, potentially in bad weather, and spend several hours in a room with neighbors while everyone makes their case for their candidate before voting. On that note it’s worth noting that the long-term weather forecast is calling for snow on Monday night in Des Moines and the surrounding area where most of Iowa’s population is located. This kind of system requires voters that are committed to coming out, and a campaign organization that does everything it can to make sure they do, including providing transportation if necessary. By all accounts Ted Cruz has a fairly good operation in Iowa while Donald Trump does not, so the question is whether Trump’s supporters, many of whom have never participated in a caucus before, will show up or whether the numbers he’s showing in the polls right now will turn out to be largely an illusion. That’s something we’ll have to wait until Monday night to find out.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    The @#$% Iowa Caucuses are next Monday, thank gawd. Only one more week of constant noise about them. Two weeks from tomorrow to the first actual votes cast in NH.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    The funniest aspect of all of this so far has been watching the Republican self-proclaimed intellectuals run around in panic-stricken little circles at the aspect of Trump.

  3. Tillman says:

    So the nightmare scenario is…what? Trump shores up his numbers with voters, or Cruz wins? Isn’t that choice the nightmare scenario itself?

  4. Scott says:

    I think Cruz is going to win big because of the turnout. I don’t like this but that is my gut feeling. I know we are making too big a deal out of these Iowa caucuses because of the attention they receive but have no idea how to tamp that down.

  5. CSK says:

    I don’t know how to predict the outcome. As I’ve said before, choosing between Cruz vs Trump is like choosing between Alien vs Predator.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Trump v Cruz. Once again forced to root for injuries. This is all fun and games until someone puts an eye out and one of these clowns gets nominated by a once proud Party.

    I hope Hillary is figuring out how to deal with Trump. None of the Rs have. Fortunately Hillary’s a lot tougher and smarter than any of the Rs.

  7. CSK says:

    The thing about the Trump Fan Club is that it has no ideology other than white nationalism/white supremacy. That is what his popularity is about. His fans are enraged with the Republican Party for doing nothing–as they see it–to prevent the U.S. from being overrun by hordes of brown-skinned people from below the border and Middle Easterners from across the ocean.

    Trump should acknowledge this and start selling baseball caps that say “Make America white again,” because that’s really what he’s pushing.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    I had a date for this past Friday night…but canceled when I learned she was a Trump supporter.
    I find insanity an un-attractive feature.

  9. Scott F. says:


    Who’s “nightmare scenario” are you seeking to understand?

    I suspect a two man race between Trump and Cruz would be the nightmare scenario for the GOP, but the Democrats would be just fine with that.

    The nightmare scenario for the country is, sadly, too plausible to bring me any comfort.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    Iowa is the anti-oxygen of American presidential primary politics.
    It’s a caucus for god’s sake, not even a real vote.

    I truly hope that the caucuses screw it up, and first announce Trump as the winner, then, 36 hours later, announce that there were omissions in the initial count and the winner is Ted Cruz.

  11. CSK says:


    Sort of like Steve Harvey and the Miss Universe contest.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Sort of, but I think Al had the Iowa Republican clown act of 2012 in mind. They announced Romney won by 8 votes, then a few days later retracted and said Santorum won by 34. Then when the Party tried to audit, several counties didn’t have the records. Why do we let IA inflict this on the country every four years? Also ethanol in gasoline.

  13. CSK says:


    I don’t know why we do allow ourselves to be put through this. It’s enough to make you envy those in medically-induced comas, because they’re the only people who can escape it.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    The world as envisioned by Republicans and the NRA.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Thank god for once it wasn’t Florida. I’m retiring to Florida soon.

  16. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    “I had a date for this past Friday night…but canceled when I learned she was a Trump supporter.”

    Plus, her air valve broke.

  17. Grewgills says:

    @C. Clavin:
    But gun shops are the safest place on earth. No one would try to shoot someone with all those guns around.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    Don’t get lazy….there are plenty of nut-jobs in FLA

  19. C. Clavin says:

    And over $25

  20. C. Clavin says:

    And another responsible gun-owner…

    Police say the man suspected of accidentally shooting a stranger at a Renton movie theater told them he carried a firearm because he feared mass shootings.

  21. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CSK: Great, White, Potayto, Potahto?

  22. bookdragon says:

    @C. Clavin: That’s the 4th or 5th story he’s given so far. The first was that it fell out of his pocket when he sat down. Then that someone reached for his crotch and since the gun was not in a holster but in his waistband, it fell out when he reacted. Then some guy was bugging him or bumping his side and when he went to move his piece so it wouldn’t get dislodged, he fumbled and dropped it.

    I think he’s just trying very hard to come up with something other than ‘I was drunk’, which is what others in the theatre thought.

  23. Kari Q says:

    A 15 point swing in two weeks is implausible. One or the other of these polls is certainly wrong; most likely they both are.

  24. Tillman says:

    @Scott F.: call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the old days when one of the two parties wasn’t legitimately crazy. Strategically it doesn’t benefit Democrats at all unless the choice is so odious it depresses votes for downballot races in gerrymandered congressional districtz, and I haven’t seen much evidence that points in the right direction there.

  25. cd6 says:

    Here’s what I worry about. The Iowa caucuses already drag out the most dedicated and die hard voters… can you imagine being in a room of 50 or whatever, and there are like 22 Trump supporters there, and 20 Cruz votes, and a mix of whoever else? The election rhetoric from these morons has been that these are basically the end times, and they are the only ones who can save us. The voters they are attracting aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. These people aren’t gonna be interested in calmly & rationally debating the subtle nuances of their favorite politician’s policy positions.

    Are people allowed guns at these things? Frankly, it should be considered a victory if nobody dies. I’m 100 percent serious here.

  26. gVOR08 says:


    it should be considered a victory if nobody dies.

    Only small d democracy in America.