Despite all the time and effort Hillary Clinton has invested in Iowa this year, her numbers there are tanking. Eight years after she finished third in the Hawkeye State, the former secretary of state could be in for another humbling experience.
And while Clinton has fallen in the Iowa polls, two Republican outsiders have risen – remarkably. Donald Trump and Ben Carson have maintained a steady and statistically significant lead.
Trump, once anathema to most conservative voters, has turned his fortunes around. According to the most recent poll from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, which was released on Saturday night, Trump is now viewed favorably by 52% of Iowa Republicans and unfavorably by 33%.
In May, weeks before Trump declared his candidacy, a Register poll had him viewed favorably by only 27% of Iowa Republicans. A whopping 63% did not like him.
Now, his numbers are quite similar to those of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the state in 2008.
In contrast to Trump’s eccentric, rule-breaking campaign, Clinton has created a highly professional operation. She has dozens of staffers on the ground, and many moreunpaid interns. She has also received endorsements from the two most popular Democrats in the state, former senator Tom Harkin and former governor Tom Vilsack, and achieved an almost unprecedented fundraising haul.
And yet in the new Register and Bloomberg poll, her support among Iowa Democrats slipped to 43% without vice-president Joe Biden joining the race. With him in, it fell to 37%.
In both scenarios, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders finished second, with 35% and 30% respectively.
Clinton’s numbers have tumbled in most recent polls, as scrutiny over her use of a private email server while secretary of state has stretched throughout the summer. She is increasingly vulnerable to an upset. Sanders has maintained a polling lead in another early voting state, New Hampshire, traditionally a stronghold for the Clinton family.
This is not, though, to say Clinton’s candidacy is in any way doomed.
In Iowa, Sanders is running a campaign that many activists consider to be relatively unorthodox, targeting voters who do not often participate in the caucuses.
Clinton’s campaign seems to be having trouble appealing to voters who didn’t support her in 2008. But that contest saw a record turnout. If Clinton simply turns out every voter who supported her eight years ago, she will likely win overwhelmingly.
While Clinton’s campaign has long gone out of its way to tamp down expectations in Iowa, it is also worth noting that the closest analogue to her 2016 candidacy in modern times, that of then vice-president Al Gore in 2000, received more than 63% of the Iowan vote.
In contrast to the surprising fall of Clinton, polls on the Republican field in Iowa show Trump and Carson maintaining their advantage. The Des Moines Register poll showed Trump at 23% and Carson at 18%; a poll from Monmouth University showed the two tied at 23%.
In terms of favorability, Carson’s numbers with Iowa Republicans have reached record levels. The retired neurosurgeon is viewed favorably by 81% of caucus goers and unfavorably by 6%.
The question is whether can he can turn such warm feelings into support on caucus night.