Sens. Rubio and Paul grapple with a hurricane named Ted

“If the caucuses were held today, he would lap the field,” said Steve Deace, a nationally syndicated radio host based in Iowa. “I think it would be a bigger win than [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee had in 2008. It would be more than 9 points.”

Republican critics of Cruz privately say the outspoken senator could never win a general election, especially against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a top mention for the Democratic ticket…

Deace, who has many contacts among conservative operatives in Iowa, which will host the first contest of the 2016 primary, says Paul has lost supporters to Cruz.

“I know lots of liberty people who have switched to Cruz,” he said. “The story right now isn’t the kinds of inroads Paul can make with evangelicals. It’s how many libertarians he’ll lose to Ted Cruz.”

Paul’s reluctance to square off directly against McConnell threatens to become a liability among some conservative activists.