It seems voters in Iowa are liking what they see in Ted Cruz more and more. The headline number in last week’s Quinnipiac poll has Cruz coming in a mere 2 points behind the still-leading Trump, at 23% vs. 25%. And on the key issues like the economy, terrorism, and foreign policy, Ted Cruz comes in with very solid numbers. Unlike Dr. Carson, who sits in 3rd with 18% but scores much lower on most individual issues.

So Iowa is fluid to say the least – Carson fell 10 points from first to third in just a month – but we are arguably in the home stretch. As far as Iowa goes that is. Will the winter caucus again throw up a winner who quickly fades when the “real” primaries begin? Given the GOP race so far, it may very well be.

But it’s getting a little late to say that anything is possible. Jeb is solidly stuck around 5%. Will he slog it through Iowa and New Hampshire and then take stock of what he needs to do? Carly is an invigorating force and one hopes she will stick it out as long as her relatively meagre funds allow.

Trump and Carson, however, are still running focused, successful campaigns. The fact that neither is the least bit wonkish on the debate stage – surprisingly perhaps on the part of Ben Carson – seems to still be convincing a portion of the party that Rubio and even Jeb will rise eventually. Is Rubio, at least, a serious contender still?

Rubio’s problem is precisely what endears him to establishment GOP types. He can take the undecideds away from Hillary. He can take enough of the identity politics vote to keep Hillary from winning. And by extension, no one else can.

Assuming this is even true, this is exactly what makes Rubio such a tough sell to many voters. As impressive as his debating skills are, he has some convincing to do to when it comes to conservatives. Voters are not likely to rally round Rubio if they doubt his credentials.

Ted Cruz does not have that problem. His integrity, his laser focus, his conservative beliefs, are all undoubted. His enemies seem to exist because he hasn’t worked his way up the ladder the way, say, a Bob Dole did. And the establishment cannot forgive him for his tactics in the senate.

At least up to now. They may have no choice but to forgive him in a few months. Could the GOP establishment eventually find themselves making peace with Senator Cruz? Rather than conservatives being forced to support Rubio? It’s more than just a thought as we enter December.

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