Over a year of build-up to the presidential race finally ends tonight, with Iowans relieving our collective blue balls by voting in their first-in-the-nation caucuses. While Iowa is a small state that only sends a relative handful of delegates to the national party conventions, the candidates who win here get a boost that will improve their chances in the upcoming primaries. But which candidates are likely to take home the gold?
I’ve been on the ground in Iowa since the Friday before last, and in that time, I’ve visited at least one campaign event from every major candidate. The only candidates I haven’t seen are Chris Christie, John Kasich, and three of the Republicans who languish in the polling ghetto otherwise known as the “undercard debate” (though I did see Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum at Donald Trump’s veterans’ rally). Based on what I’ve seen, here are my predictions for who will win the Republican and Democratic caucuses, and where each candidate will place.
- Donald Trump: It’s no contest. In my time in Iowa, Trump has consistently drawn the biggest, most enthusiastic crowds, as young and old alike gravitate to his nationalist plan to make America great again. The only thing that could potentially stump the Trump is the fact that many of his followers are first-time voters, and the Iowa caucus structure favors long-time, dedicated voters over dilettantes. However, the sheer level of support Trump enjoys may cancel this out.
- Ted Cruz: The previous Iowa front-runner, this lying greaseball has seen his poll numbers tumble after Trump raised the issue of his Canadian birth. Nonetheless, Cruz maintains a strong following among evangelical Iowans who are uncomfortable with Trump’s “New York values.” With his campaign events drawing only a fraction of Trump’s support—and mostly old people at that—the most Cruz can hope for at this point is a second-place finish.
- Marco Rubio: The Tea Party darling turned cuckservative pin-up girl draws only small crowds of bored, elderly followers. However, Rubio has been picking up support from GOP establishment hacks who have given up hope of Jeb Bush climbing out of the polling toilet. Said support will carry him at best to a third-place finish; at worst, he might drop behind Ben Carson.
- Ben Carson: After a brief stint as Cuckservative Flavor of the Month, Carson has seen his support bleed away to Trump and Cruz, but he still maintains a core following of evangelicals who are turned off by the braggadocio of the former and the latter’s sliminess. The best he can hope for is a fourth-place finish, though he might be able to outpace Marco Rubio for third.
- Rand Paul: By pandering to the Left, Paul has managed to completely destroy the grassroots Libertarian movement his father created. His events still attract groupies who are nostalgic for the Ron Paul days, but this will carry Rand to a fifth-place finish at best.
- Jeb Bush: Ready your laugh tracks and keep your clown horns on standby, because the bull is about to get prepped. Jeb’s campaign is on life support, with his events drawing only tiny crowds of senile pensioners who have nothing better to do. Without his father’s connections to Reagan or Dubya’s religiosity, Jeb will be getting the delegate scraps in sixth place, possibly moving up to fifth.
- Everyone else: Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum all have similarly anemic levels of support, so giving accurate predictions for them is impossible. Jim Gilmore hasn’t made a single campaign stop in Iowa, and he’s so irrelevant overall that pollsters don’t even include him. The most anyone in this tier can hope for is beating Jeb to sixth place.
- Bernie Sanders: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Sanders will pull off a narrow upset win in Iowa based on the numbers of supporters his rallies attract and their sheer level of dedication. Indeed, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate from either party who can give Donald Trump a run for his money in this department. Like Trump, though, Sanders may be hobbled by the fact that many of his supporters are first-time voters.
- Hillary Clinton: Originally a shoo-in for the nomination, Hillary is stymied by the fact that many of her “supporters” despise her, but they believe she’s the candidate most likely to beat the Republicans. Hillary lacks the sheer numbers that Sanders is pulling (as well as his followers’ passion), but she has the media and the party machinery on her side. She’ll likely pull off a narrow second-place finish; if she wins, it’ll be by a razor-thin margin.
- Martin O’Malley: You already knew who was going to be at the bottom. While O’Malley is by far the most likable and normal of the Democrats running, his rallies resemble PTA meetings more than presidential campaign events. Given the rules of the Democratic caucus, there’s a good chance that O’Malley may not get any delegates at all.
Barring any major shenanigans, I believe that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders will win their respective races in Iowa. Whether they’ll be able to clinch the nominations themselves is still up for debate, but this year, the voters have made it clear that they’re sick of Wall Street-controlled empty suits. How the bought-and-paid-for establishments of both parties will react is yet to be seen.