Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Happy New Year! Joyous Iowa Caucuses!

Well, maybe the last one isn’t quite traditional for this time of the year, but it is just about time to get your political geek on with the eve of the first votes of the 2012 Presidential cycle careening towards us.

For those of you trying to make some kind of sense out of what to expect in Iowa on Tuesday, good luck, because there is not much that has made sense. You have had one candidate that has been perceived by many as the front runner heading into this cycle, and he’s been consistently one of the top tier candidates the entire time.

But Mitt Romney stinks of John McCain to many conservatives in the Republican Party and he certainly does not have a lot of appeal to the Tea Party wing of the GOP either. But Romney is also the only candidate who’s numbers haven’t spiked like the eggnog at the company holiday party, only to see them crash in a hangover of being unable to sustain them.

So as the days move into hours for the Iowa countdown, here are a few things I believe will be strong factors and indicators as how Iowa may play out:

Poll trending

Its no mistake that virtually every candidate’s line in the PD Composite looks like the Vomitron Roller Coaster at your local amusement park. This season has been one of runs. First it was Michele Bachmann. Then it was Rick Perry. Cue Herman Cain. It’s time for Newt Gingrich. Let’s give Ron Paul a spin.

Each one has spiked and then most have crashed. We are seeing the Gingrich nosedive in recent polling data. Ron Paul’s numbers remain strong, and due to the impressive strength of his organization in Iowa, they are unlikely to suffer from a severe drop. That said, his place as the frontrunner in Iowa has brought the focus on him and there could be a drop before the votes start next week. If a Paul stumble were to happen, it seems like Rick Santorum may be poised to make the next run. He’s coming from way, way behind and there isn’t a lot of time, but there are enough undecided votes out there to make Santorum a dark horse to do quite well.

Weather and turnout

A couple of months ago, before Ron Paul’s numbers in Iowa began to spike, a Republican insider was quoted as saying something to the effect that if there were a blizzard on caucus day, Ron Paul would win. Such is the perceived strength of the Ron Paul machine in Iowa this year. As of right now, it looks like it will be a typical, calm winter day in Des Moines, with sunny skies and a high of about 36 degrees.

Weather is often a key determinant of turnout for elections, so if the weather is nice and turnout is high, it stands to hurt Ron Paul the most, mainly because his people are postal carrier. They will vote in rain, in snow, in dark of night. Romney and Gingrich like good weather right now.

The Des Moines Register Poll

I know I sound like a broken record here, but in 2008 the Des Moines Register newspaper published a poll just days ahead of the caucuses and predicted this: Huckabee 32%, Romney 26%, McCain 13%, Thompson 9% and Ron Paul 9%.

The actual caucus results? Try this: Huckabee 34%, Romney 25%, McCain and Thompson at 13% each, and Paul at 10%.

That’s pretty darned good, so keep your eyes open for that poll, which I expect will be out this weekend.

So there are a few things that may help you win your Iowa Prediction Pool, if any of you are political junkies enough to have one.

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