Now the unsettling part for Cruz: The Family Leadership Summit was a reminder that anything less than an impressive showing in Iowa could doom Cruz’s chances. He’s not a natural fit for any other of the early states—New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada—and after those contests are decided, the field is expected to narrow significantly. And so far, Cruz has yet to show polling strength in the Hawkeye State. He was tied for fourth place in a Quinnipiac University poll of Iowa Republican voters released July 1. A prior Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa poll late May placed him in the middle of the pack. Potential was there—primary voters viewed him favorably—but they preferred others.
As Trump sucked up most of the oxygen Saturday with an inflammatory remark deriding Arizona Senator John McCain’s war record, Cruz stood apart from most candidates in refusing to disavow the brash real estate mogul’s remarks. That seems risky given the intense backlash, but it may be a calculated strategy that involves playing nice with Trump in the hope that he flames out and his supporters flock to Cruz. It’s a lot of supporters, too: Trump has led the Republican field in several national polls lately.
Cruz’s other problem is the massive field of candidates competing for the conservative vote, including Walker, Huckabee, Santorum and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
The question is whether Cruz’s book publicity and tour through Iowa can translate into the polling boost he needs. If not now, when?