January 27, 2015

Iowa Prediction Report 2015


The 2016 Washington and Lee Mock Convention Political Team is predicting DONALD J. TRUMP to win the popular vote of the Iowa caucuses, the first step of the 2016 National Republican Primary. We expect a close race for first place between Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, with both candidates earning nine delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Trump's strong populist support will ultimately carry him to a narrow victory.

On February 1st, Iowa will allocate a total of twenty-seven bound delegates, with the Iowa GOP’s top three officials also voting at the national convention. We are predicting the outcome of the twenty- seven bound delegates decided in the upcoming caucus. Each of these delegates will be required at the Republican National Convention to vote for the candidate to which they are pledged, whereas in previous years, the candidates have been unbound, able to change their vote up to the Convention itself. The statewide popular vote will determine who receives these delegates in a proportional allocation system. Thus, each delegate awarded to a candidate represents approximately 3.7i percent of the popular vote.

We predict Ben Carson to receive two delegates and Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush to receive one delegate a piece. Each candidate has shown a consistent presence in Iowa, appealing to voters disillusioned with the three major candidates in the state. We predict Marco Rubio to win four delegates. Rubio's endorsement from The Des Moines Register has helped to cement Rubio as a serious candidate in Iowa. Voters unwilling to support candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz—candidates often criticized as being too extreme—are likely to support Marco Rubio as a viable alternative. His energy and appeal to younger voters, especially among college students, will lead him to win a clear third place in the Iowa caucuses.

Focusing on the Iowa frontrunners, we predict Ted Cruz to receive nine delegates. Cruz has been a major presence in Iowa and throughout the country, surging last month to surpass Donald Trump in several polls and prediction markets. Cruz appeals to the Christian evangelical base of Iowa, a base which has traditionally had a significant effect on the caucuses. Cruz has developed a passionate voter base and a strong organization on the ground, highlighted by endorsements from at least one pastor per county, notable Christian evangelical Bob Vander Plaats, and influential Congressman Steve King. Cruz’s strong evangelical conservative base, reliable caucus-goers, has caused us to inflate Cruz’s current poll numbers.

However, Ted Cruz has experienced a decline in both prediction markets and polls in recent weeks. This decline has been influenced by Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump, Governor Terry Branstad’s comment about Cruz being “a big mistake” for Iowa because of his stance on ethanol subsidies, an important industry to Iowa’s economy, and Trump’s Chuck Laudner-led campaign. Currently, Cruz trails in different polling data aggregations at FiveThirtyEight, HuffPost Pollster, and Real Clear Politics. Cruz’s Iowa polling numbers indicate a peak in mid-December and consistent downward trend over the past month, not enough to make up the gap to the surging Donald Trump, even after inflating Cruz’s current poll numbers. All things considered, Cruz will still perform well, netting the same

number of delegates as our predicted winner, Donald Trump, although he will earn a slightly lower percentage of the caucus popular vote.

We predict that Donald Trump will receive nine delegates. Trump has defied the conventional wisdom of previous election cycles. He may have originally been considered an insignificant entry into the crowded GOP field, yet he has transformed into a viable contender in Iowa and for the Republican nomination. Trump has been the frontrunner in the polls for most of his campaign, drawing huge rallies and tapping into the GOP electorate's anger at Washington. Trump's unfiltered criticism of his political opponents and assertive style of speaking, views on issues like immigration and foreign policy, and lack of experience as a government official have contributed to his rise in popularity in Iowa, whereas in previous years, those factors would have hindered a candidate's electability. Trump’s current connection with voters is similar to Ron Paul in 2012, who was able to mobilize a large proportion of the Iowan electorate against the traditional establishment and Christian evangelical candidates in Romney and Santorum.

One question remains: will Trump supporters caucus on Monday, February 1? Unlike primaries, where voters can use absentee ballots, vote on their own schedule throughout election day, and only spend a few minutes to cast their vote, caucus-goers must meet at a specific time, contribute to minor party business, cast their vote, and wait for the results before they can return home. While not as extreme of a time commitment as the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, the Republican caucus system discourages participation, and questions remain about whether or not Trump supporters will spend that time to caucus, considering many who support the candidate have never caucused before. However, many Trump supporters are fervent believers in their candidate. Though we believe the poll numbers currently inflate Trump's total caucus support, we expect Trump supporters to caucus in enough numbers to help Trump outpace Cruz.

It is important to remember that the winner of the Iowa Caucus historically has not become the GOP nominee at the convention. Since 1980, only Bob Dole in 1996 and George Bush in 2000 have won the Iowa caucuses and emerged as the overall nominee. We say this only to remind readers that Trump's projected success in the Hawkeye state, while certainly a factor in who we ultimately predict come February 13th, will not be the sole data point to which the Mock Convention political team refers. There is much still to be seen in the 2016 National Republican Primary.

The Iowa GOP rounds to the nearest delegate during the allocation process. If too few delegates have been allocated, the candidate with the percentage vote closest to the rounding threshold receives an extra delegate. If too many delegates have been allocated, the candidate with the percentage vote closest to the rounding threshold loses a delegate. This is repeated until the total allocated bound delegates reaches twenty-seven.


Please note: because this is no longer a current release, some information and/or links may be outdated or inaccessible.

Mock Con is a simulated presidential nominating convention held every four years by the students of Washington and Lee University to predict who the party out of power from the White House will nominate to run for President of the United States. Since 1908, the W&L students have worked to create one of the most ambitious non-partisan student research projects in the country, and the most accurate “mock” convention.