Campaigns Brief: How to Watch the Iowa Caucuses

In today’s edition: How to watch Iowa’s caucus results unfold; who’s got momentum in the latest polls; events, ad spending and social media buzz; and who’s spending in states coming soon.

They’re Here! They’re Finally Here!

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Iowans will head to community centers, church basements and school auditoriums tonight to begin the months-long process of choosing Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. Democrats will gather at about 1,100 sites around the state to elect 44 delegates to the national convention; Republicans meet in about 900 locations to select 30 bound delegates.

Caucuses begin at 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern tonight. Expect the first results about an hour later. Full results will be available from the Iowa Democratic Party, the Iowa Republican Party and the Des Moines Register.

The weather looks mostly good; the significant winter storm poised to hit the Midwest won’t begin really dumping on Iowa until late tonight or early tomorrow (Pay attention, reporters headed to the airport Tuesday morning). But at least a few caucus sites in southwestern Iowa are likely to take place amid early flurries.

The Final Polls

The most recent polls out of Iowa, with change from the last survey conducted by the same pollster:

           Quinnip   DMR/Bloom Emerson
Trump      31% (+0)  28% (+6)  27% (-6)
Cruz       24  (-5)  23  (-2)  26  (+3)
Rubio      17  (+4)  15  (+3)  22  (+8)
Carson      8  (+1)  10  (-1)   3  (-6)
Bush        4  (+0)   2  (-2)   4  (-1)
Paul        4  (-1)   5  (+0)   3  (+0)
Huckabee    3  (+1)   2  (-1)   5  (+3)
Fiorina     2  (+1)   2  (+0)   2  (+0)
Kasich      2  (+1)   2  (+0)   4  (+1)
Christie    1  (-2)   3  (+0)   3  (-2)
Santorum    1  (+1)   2  (+1)   1  (+1)
Gilmore     -  (+0)   -  (+0)   -  (+0)
           Quinnip   DMR/Bloom Emerson
Sanders    49% (+0)  42% (+2)  43% (+0)
Clinton    46  (+1)  45  (+3)  51  (-1)
O'Malley    3  (-1)   3  (-1)   4  (+1)

How To Watch The Results

When the results roll in, they will reflect the choices of a state deeply divided along economic, cultural and political lines. Those divisions will help explain who wins each party’s caucuses, and why.

Few divisions are more deeply felt in Iowa than the urban-rural schism. Most Iowa voters are concentrated in a few densely populated counties such as Polk, home of Des Moines, Johnson and Linn, homes of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and Pottawattamie, home of Council Bluffs.

Forty-six of Iowa’s 99 counties have fewer than 15,000 residents. Those more rural areas are far more conservative than the more populous city centers. They’re also losing population, while the urban centers grow.

In 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney virtually tied with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), despite the fact that Santorum won many more counties. Romney won heavily populated counties around Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, while Santorum ran up the score in lesser-populated rural areas. Romney won just one of those 46 counties with fewer than 15,000 residents — Fremont County, in the southwest corner of the state. Santorum won 36, then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) took seven and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry won two.

2012 Republican Caucus Results

Source: Des Moines Register
Source: Des Moines Register

On the Democratic side, the last significant caucus battle illustrated its own geographic divide. Hillary Clinton won most of the Loess Hills, and a dozen rural counties on the northern part of the state. Then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was strongest in southern rural counties, though he had his own bastions of support up north.

Then-Sen. Barack Obama won by running up the score in the more heavily populated urban cores; Obama won Polk and Linn counties by double digits, and he won Johnson and Scott Counties, in the eastern slice of the state, by more than 20 points each.

2008 Democratic Caucus Results

2008 Democratic presidential caucus results

Western rural counties such as Pocahontas, Sac, Calhoun, Audobon and Adams are bleeding population at the fastest clips. Those five counties each lost more than 10 percent of their populations between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses. At the same time, Dallas County, where suburbs of Des Moines are growing quickly, grew by 62 percent. Polk, Story (Ames), Warren and Madison counties all grew by more than 10 percent; so did counties around Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

The race for delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions this year will be fought along similar lines. Expect Cruz, popular with evangelical voters and determined to make his presence felt in rural counties, to win many of the same areas Huckabee and Santorum took in 2008 and 2012. Real estate tycoon Donald Trump is likely to do well in college counties — Story, Polk, Johnson and Linn — and perhaps in more blue-collar working areas in the southeast corner of the state.

The Democratic map is likely to look much different than the 2008 race. Recent surveys show Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) running just about even with Clinton, though his support comes more from college counties. Clinton will bank on winning those more rural counties that went for Edwards in 2008, in hopes that’s enough to build on her success last time around in the Loess Hills.

See our full look at the 11 maps that explain Iowa’s political geography.

The Counties That Matter

Just 12 counties in Iowa have backed the winner of the Democratic caucuses in each of the last seven cycles, according to an analysis by the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics expert Eric Ostermeier. If their track records hold, keep eyes on Buchanan, Buena Vista, Carroll, Clayton, Clinton, Dubuque, Grundy, Jackson, Marshall, Muscatine, Plymouth and Webster Counties. Dubuque is the largest county in that group.

Demographic expert Dante Chinni says keep an eye on Johnson and Story Counties, home to the two largest universities in the state. That’s where Sanders should do best. Polk, home of Des Moines, is likely to split between younger Sanders fans and older, more establishment Clinton backers. And Appanoose, Decatur and Wayne Counties, where John Edwards won in 2008, are likely to flip to Clinton; they’re older and less well-educated than the state at large.

On the Republican side, Cruz is likely to win big in the Western half of the state, where Evangelicals play a bigger role. Trump will do best in Decatur, Lucas, Monroe and Lee, where voters are more secular. The big tossup: Polk, where both social conservatives (Huckabee 2008) and establishment favorites (Romney 2012) have won in recent years.

The Data

                    Days in  Total
Candidate            Iowa    Events
Martin O'Malley       68      191
Bernie Sanders        60      155
Hillary Clinton       50      106
Rick Santorum         95      293
Mike Huckabee         81      222
Ted Cruz              56      152
Carly Fiorina         61      138
Rand Paul             42      120
Ben Carson            47      110
Marco Rubio           48      100
Chris Christie        36       80
Donald Trump          37       57
Jeb Bush              27       51
John Kasich           15       23
Jim Gilmore            2        2

Source: Des Moines Register

Total Facebook interactions in Iowa, by candidate, over the last week:

                 Unique     Total
Candidate        People  Interactions
Donald Trump     181,300   727,800
Ted Cruz          48,000   155,300
Marco Rubio       21,500    48,400
Ben Carson        20,500    68,700
Rand Paul         11,500    47,300
Mike Huckabee     10,200    23,800
Carly Fiorina     10,000    20,600
Jeb Bush           7,200    13,800
Rick Santorum      6,900    14,800
Chris Christie     5,600     9,700
John Kasich        2,300     4,700
Jim Gilmore        1,000     1,000
Hillary Clinton   99,500   366,400
Bernie Sanders    86,900   335,600
Martin O'Malley    4,400     9,700

Source: Facebook

Total ad spending in Iowa:

                 Campaign Super PACs
Jeb Bush              $0   $14.05m
Ben Carson        $3.28m     $329k
Chris Christie      $44k     $543k
Ted Cruz          $2.90m    $4.53m
Carly Fiorina      $356k     $475k
Mike Huckabee         $0    $2.76m
John Kasich           $0        $0
Rand Paul           $86k    $1.23m
Marco Rubio       $4.53m    $7.20m
Rick Santorum        $3k      $29k
Donald Trump      $3.54m      $24k
Hillary Clinton  $10.74m      $48k
Bernie Sanders   $10.01m        $0
Martin O'Malley       $0     $239k
Total            $35.49m   $31.45m

Source: Morning Consult reporting

Who’s on Air This Week

Starting tomorrow, Iowa voters can safely turn on their television sets once again, confident they will be free of the constant barrage of political advertising that’s blanketed the state for months. Granite Staters — and, increasingly, other states down the road — aren’t so lucky; campaigns and super PACs will spend $15.2 million on advertising in the next seven days. Here’s a look at who’s on air this week:

Jeb Bush: Bush’s campaign is spending $671,000 in New Hampshire and $6,500 on South Carolina radio this week. His Right to Rise super PAC will drop $2.19 million on the air in New Hampshire and $76,000 on Nevada cable and radio. They’re also up with $1.4 million in South Carolina, and a small $69,000 buy in Virginia, which votes on Feb. 1.

Ben Carson: Carson’s campaign will spend just $2,600 in Nevada this week.

Chris Christie: Christie’s campaign is hurting for cash. They’ll spend only $17,800 in New Hampshire, all on the radio. His America Leads super PAC will spend $2.14 million in New Hampshire, too.

Ted Cruz: Cruz’s campaign will drop $14,600 on New Hampshire cable and radio and $5,000 on South Carolina this week. His super PACs are spending $7,000 in New Hampshire, $8,600 in Nevada and a whopping $1.26 million in South Carolina, too.

Carly Fiorina: Fiorina’s super PAC CARLY for America is dropping $216,000 on New Hampshire airwaves this week.

John Kasich: Kasich’s campaign will spend $92,000 on air in New Hampshire, while his super PAC drops another $80,000. Big note: The American Future Fund, a Koch brothers-tied group, is in the middle of a $1 million anti-Kasich ad buy, which started last week. The group is spending $509,000 for ads on New Hampshire broadcast and cable taking shots at Ohio’s governor this week alone.

Rand Paul: America’s Liberty super PAC will spend $14,000 in New Hampshire.

Marco Rubio: Rubio’s campaign is up with a $617,000 buy in New Hampshire this week, along with $56,000 in Nevada and $903,000 in South Carolina. His Conservative Solutions super PAC will spend $1.26 million in New Hampshire, $193,000 in Nevada and $692,000 in South Carolina this week.

Donald Trump: Trump’s campaign is spending $608,000 in New Hampshire and $175,000 in South Carolina this week.

Hillary Clinton: Clinton’s campaign will spend $604,000 in New Hampshire and $276,000 in Nevada this week. They’re also spending $1,000 on South Carolina radio.

Bernie Sanders: Sanders’s campaign will drop $463,000 on the New Hampshire airwaves this week. He’ll spend $232,000 in Nevada and $143,000 in South Carolina.

Fourth Quarter Fundraising Reports

Total raised and spent in the fourth quarter, according to new FEC reports filed over the weekend (cash on hand figures reflect totals as of Dec. 31):

                              Cash
Candidate       Raised Spent On Hand
Ben Carson      $22.6m $27.3m  $6.6m
Ted Cruz        $20.5m $15.6m $18.7m
Marco Rubio     $14.2m $14.8m $10.4m
Donald Trump    $13.6m  $6.9m  $6.9m
Jeb Bush         $7.1m  $9.8m  $7.6m
John Kasich      $3.2m  $3.3m  $2.5m
Chris Christie   $2.9m  $3.2m  $1.1m
Carly Fiorina    $2.8m  $3.9m  $4.5m
Rand Paul        $2.1m  $2.9m  $1.3m
Mike Huckabee    $704k  $1.3m  $133k
Rick Santorum    $247k  $431k   $43k
Jim Gilmore      $108k  $109k   $34k
Hillary Clinton $38.1m $33.1m $38.0m
Bernie Sanders  $33.5m $32.3m $28.3m
Martin O'Malley  $1.5m  $2.1m  $169k