On Thursday, Donald Trump made what could have been a costly gamble.
The brazen billionaire skipped the final GOP presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses and held his own, competing event “for veterans.”
Of course it wasn’t really “for veterans.” It was “for Trump,” who figured that he may be able to bolster his anti-establishment credentials by refusing to participate.
The publicity stunt - which Trump justified by claiming that Megyn Kelly couldn’t be trusted as a moderator - worked. All anyone cared to talk about on Thursday night was Trump.
Now, with the caucuses just a day away, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll shows Trump has a “clear lead” over his closest rival Senator Ted Cruz. “Mr. Trump leads the Republican field as the preferred pick of 28% of likely caucusgoers, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 23% and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 15%,” WSJ writes, adding that “the results show Mr. Trump overtaking Mr. Cruz from an earlier Register poll conducted Jan. 7-10.”
“Donald Trump could win Iowa,” Stuart Stevens, a Maryland-based GOP strategist who the Register notes has worked on five presidential campaigns says. “But he has little room for error. He is almost no one's second choice.”
That’s probably just fine with Trump. After all, he doesn’t like “losers” and second place is just “first loser.”
“A victory for Trump would give him a huge head start toward the nomination, paving the way for him to achieve the unprecedented feat of winning both the first caucus voting in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire,” the Register goes on to say. “A second-place finish for Cruz could make his path to the nomination difficult [as] he was expected to dominate in Iowa, where fellow religious conservatives make up a bigger bloc than in many other states.”
This is the first time Trump has been the frontrunner in Iowa since last August.
“They don’t even matter anymore to be honest,” Trump said, speaking to a crowd in Clinton about the new poll. “Because we’re so close to the end, what difference does it make?”
He then proceeded to conduct his own poll when he asked the audience to determine which is more dangerous Wall Street or Canada. On Friday morning, Trump called Cruz "an anchor baby in Canada."
Meanwhile on the Democratic ticket, the same Des Moines Register poll shows Hillary Clinton has a slight lead over Bernie Sanders going into the caucuses. "Clinton is the top pick for 45 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, with Sanders at 42 percent," The Register writes. “This race is as tight as can be,” David Axelrod, a national political strategist, said. "If Bernie Sanders had momentum headed into the final month, the race now is static and essentially tied."
"Turnout," he added, "is everything."
Amusingly, voters overwhelmingly said Sanders cares more about Clinton's "everyday Americans."
So there you have it. America is inching ever closer to putting itself in a position of having to choose between an avowed socialist and what the Register calls "a smash-mouth game show host."
America's political aristocracy is dead, long live the political aristocracy.