5 things to watch for ahead of the Iowa caucus

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The weekend before the Iowa caucus means the remaining Democratic and Republican presidential candidates will be holding campaign events across the Hawkeye State hoping to gather support with time running out.

Thousands of local, national, and international members of the media are expected to begin descending upon Iowa to cover the first 2016 nomination contest. The Media General Washington Newsroom, which works for this station, has correspondents covering every angle of the Iowa caucus. Below is a summary of the five things we’re watching closely ahead of the big event:

1) Don’t stop until you drop

The candidates realize time is running out if they’re going to try to convince Iowa voters they’re the best person to the lead the country. This weekend Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Martin O’Malley, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz are call campaigning in Iowa. The events are scattered across the entire state but include volunteer canvassing, meet and greets at Iowa diners, and special townhalls with Iowa leaders.

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) spent Friday morning campaigning with the senior Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and the chairman of the state’s Republican Party Jeff Kaufmann.

One noticeable difference, Donald Trump spent Friday in New Hampshire after skipping Thursday night’s FOX News debate in Des Moines.

2) Polls – can you trust them?

For months, several media outlets have counted on surveys to understand where the race stands in Iowa. However there are questions over how accurate the polls could be or if they’re simply an inaccurate barometer of where things stand in the race. Some networks have turned to a “poll of polls” which is a combination of several surveys to get an accurate look at where things stand in the race. The latest survey shows:

Democratic Race Standings in Iowa
NBC News / Wall Street Journal (Jan. 24- Jan. 26)

Clinton: 48%
Sanders: 45%
O’Malley: 3%

Republican Race Standings in Iowa
NBC News / Wall Street Journal (Jan. 24 – Jan 26)

Trump: 32%
Cruz: 25%
Rubio: 18%
Carson: 8%
Bush: 4%

 

The Des Moines Reigster, the state’s largest and most respected newspaper, will release its last poll before the caucus on Saturday night. The survey will likely offer the last worthy snapshot of the race.

3) Being first isn’t everything

What makes the Presidential nomination contest wildly different from a traditional election is that coming in second, third, or fourth doesn’t necessarily translate into failure. In the past, candidates who’ve performed in the top few spots are often able to sell themselves as the eventual nominee.

In 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucus but it was fourth place winner Sen. John McCain who became the party’s nominee. If a candidate performs well in the Iowa contest, new donors could see the opportunity to back a potential new front runner.

4) The real winner: The people of Iowa

The Iowa nomination contest provides the state of Iowa a spotlight other Midwestern states could only dream of. Millions of dollars are pouring into the state’s economy from the campaigns, media outlets, and even tourists who head to the Hawkeye state for the unique experience.

In 2008, an economics expert tried to explain how much money the contest brings into the state’s coffers. When the question was raised about the financial implications of the caucus, the author discovered while the contest brings Iowa worldwide attention, it doesn’t always bring in the big bucks.

5) Begging, spinning, and a little of both

What makes politics vastly different from other careers is the constant opportunity to spin events and news into your own favor. After Thursday’s final Republican presidential debate, several campaigns took to Twitter, Facebook, and through their own campaign websites to call their candidate the winner.

“Jeb won tonight’s debate, with his strongest debate of the cycle,” said a Bush campaign statement released overnight Thursday. Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign, who once lead Trump in the Iowa polls, tried to claim victory in Thursday’s match up despite having very little air time.

 

For the latest look at what’s happening on the ground in Iowa, follow Jim Osman, Alex Schuman, Chance Seales, and Danielle Gill on Twitter

 

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