Iowa sometimes makes campaigns — and sometimes it breaks them.
There are five GOP presidential contenders that could be put on political death watch as result of what happens in the Iowa caucuses Monday night. Here’s a rundown of which campaigns could end, ranked from most to least likely.
1.) Rick Santorum — Unless something miraculous occurs, the 2012 winner of the Iowa caucuses will be ending his campaign shortly after Monday night’s results come in. The Des Moines Register poll showed Santorum garnering just 2 percent support in the state. If he can’t win more than the low single digits percentage in a state he won in 2012, it’s hard to see the case for Santorum sticking around. Plus, according to his FEC filing released Sunday, he came into January with almost nothing in the bank. Santorum will soon be gone from the race unless he really outperforms his poll numbers Monday.
2.) Mike Huckabee — Like Santorum, the former Arkansas governor is a past winner of the Iowa caucuses, and like Santorum, he is polling at 2 percent in the Des Moines Register poll. It’s hard to see the rationale for Huckabee to stay in the race if he doesn’t surprise the world with a stellar showing Monday night, especially since he has very little money in the bank, according to his FEC filing. But perhaps he could convince himself to push on to South Carolina or even to the “SEC primary” on March 1, if only to try to weaken [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore]’s support among evangelicals. It’s become quite clear that Huckabee truly despises the Texas senator and he would likely see helping to bring him down as a nice consolation prize. So while Huckabee should be out after Iowa if he doesn’t perform well, there’s a chance he hangs on to spite Cruz.
3.) Carly Fiorina — The former CEO of Hewlett Packard is barely registering in the polls in Iowa, despite spending more days in the state than any candidate currently in the race other than Huckabee and Santorum. So it’s not like she hasn’t tried to do well in Iowa. She put in a real effort. She just didn’t catch on. Combine this with the fact that she isn’t polling very well elsewhere and she has been dropped from the main stage debates with little prospect of getting back on, and you begin to think that a poor showing in Iowa would convince her to call it a day. One thing may keep her in the race, though. She had a decent amount of cash on hand coming into January, so perhaps she’ll continue on as long as she has money in the bank.
4.) [crscore]Rand Paul[/crscore] — The Kentucky senator has every reason to reconsider his continued presence in the race if he fails to show a real sign of life in Iowa since he has a Senate re-election campaign to run. If Paul doesn’t make the top five in Iowa, that would be a bad blow for him. Since he’s not polling very well in New Hampshire, why continue on? Unlike his father, he doesn’t have the luxury of sticking around as a message candidate, in part because it’s not inconceivable his Senate race become competitive and in part because it’s not clear he will continue to make the debate stage. Plus, unlike his father, Rand isn’t raising an awful lot of money these days. He entered January with just $1.3 million in the bank. Nonetheless, I suspect that even if Paul underperforms in Iowa, he’ll probably stick around at least through New Hampshire. But it wouldn’t be totally surprising if he decided to end his campaign if he has a bad performance in the caucuses.
5.) Ben Carson — The famed neurosurgeon says the only way he won’t compete in the New Hampshire primary is “if I die,” so the odds are Carson won’t be dropping out after Iowa. And he isn’t polling terribly in the state with 10 percent in the recent Des Moines Register poll, placing him in fourth place. But near the end of last year Carson was polling much better. In November, he was even beating front-runner Donald Trump in some polls of Iowa. But since then his fortunes have soured. You would think a showing far worse than what he is polling would make him reconsider staying in the race, but Carson isn’t a guy who lacks confidence in himself. And since he has some money in the bank, according to his most recent FEC filing, he has every reason to continue on with his campaign if he is enjoying it. But there is at least some chance that a really, really poor showing will convince him that this will not be his year.
Of course there are other GOP candidates who are polling really badly in Iowa. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, for instance, aren’t looking so hot in the state right now. But these candidates have staked their campaigns more on New Hampshire than Iowa, so it is hard to imagine any of them dropping out after a poor performance Monday night.