On Monday, February 1, 2016 Iowa holds its caucuses. This is a complicated process and there is a long and tortured path from what takes place that evening to how the final delegates to the party convention are apportioned. So in one sense, what happens that night is not really definitive but the media, anxious to quickly identify winners and losers, have used the non-binding secret ballot that begins the proceedings as their marker and this can lead to problems as in 2012, when Mitt Romney was declared the winner on caucus night but later it turned out that Rick Santorum had edged him out.
Furthermore, the caucus requires people to spend a lot of time on a cold winter evening on a working day, and this tends to lower turnout and attract the most committed party supporters. This is why it may not be the best barometer of general opinion and the New Hampshire primary the following week on February 9 is a better gauge.
But whatever its faults, the Iowa caucus is still the first and thus generates huge media interest. The latest poll coming out of that state conducted by the Des Moines Register shows Ted Cruz jumping into the lead with 31% of likely caucus goers, with Donald Trump at 21%, Ben Carson at 13%, and Marco Rubio at 10%.
You can see the details of the poll here. I found the beliefs and attitudes of the potential Republican caucus goers both disturbing and interesting.
The interesting part is that a plurality of 49% favor a single-payer health care plan. For the disturbing aspect, see the majorities, some of them large, who believe that climate change is a hoax, deport 11 million people, want to abolish the IRS, repeal the financial reforms that were implemented following the 2008 collapse, reduce taxes on the rich, stop all Syrian refugees from entering the US, and the plurality who are willing to risk a war with Russia over Syria.
So given the nature of the caucus, we can expect people with the more extreme of those views attending and dominating. These are the people whose support is being sought by the candidates so expect in the next six weeks to see the candidates hammering away at these themes with increasing intensity.