Senator Ted Cruz of Texas insists he does not want to be seen as the front-runner in the Iowa caucuses. “The only way I know how to run is as an underdog,” he said here after a speech on Tuesday, waving off any Joe Namath-style guarantee of victory.
But try as he might to hold down expectations, Mr. Cruz has plainly become the candidate to beat in the caucuses. Barring new and damaging revelations, many Iowa Republicans now say the only thing standing between him and a victory on Feb. 1 is a groundswell of first-time or infrequent voters turning out for Donald J. Trump, of the sort that materialized for Barack Obama in 2008.
Mr. Cruz has gotten to this point by amassing an energized and growing coalition of Christian activists and anti-establishment Republicans, an extensive organization and a deep reservoir of money. But he is also benefiting from a splintered opposition that does not have either the money or the will to halt his rise.
Some supporters of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, privately say they believe Mr. Cruz cannot be defeated in Iowa. While those claims may in part be gamesmanship — an attempt to build up Mr. Cruz’s expectations here — more revealing is that neither Mr. Rubio nor the well-financed outside group allied with his campaign has spent money on television advertising in Iowa assailing Mr. Cruz.
“It does feel like it’s now Cruz’s to lose,” said Matthew N. Strawn, a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.
The relatively unimpeded path has positioned Mr. Cruz, who has taken a lead in polls here, as the prohibitive favorite to win the state and emerge as the preferred candidate of the party’s conservative wing. And with a dominant performance here, an unexpectedly strong showing in New Hampshire eight days later and victories in South Carolina and many of the Super Tuesday states on March 1, he could also quickly become something else: the de facto party nominee.Read the rest of the story HERE.
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