This is something of an overstatement, since nationally Cruz is polling only a few points above Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul. But he’s outraising them and outpolling them significantly in Iowa, where any non-establishment candidate has to have a strong showing … and he isn’t wrong to think that he could conceivably unite evangelical votes (if Carson fades) with more secular Tea Party/libertarian votes, and become something like the candidate that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich together tried to be in 2012.

In which case his potential path to victory would depend on exploiting the immigration issue and the primary calendar. Rubio has repositioned himself somewhat effectively on immigration, but Cruz still should be able to get to his right, or at least make the comprehensive bill Rubio worked on with Chuck Schumer an albatross around the Florida senator’s neck. And then — as I noted in the column — the earliest states might be better for Cruz than Rubio (Iowa and South Carolina in particular), and then further — as I should have noted in the column — Rubio’s big early opportunity, the Florida primary, isn’t actually that early this year; it comes after the so-called SEC primary, the raft of southern states that vote on March 1st, where Cruz would presumably do very well. So it’s possible to imagine a scenario where we arrive at the Florida primary and Cruz is on a crazy winning streak, carrying all before him, and the establishment seems to be completely on the ropes.

So why do I still give Cruz such low odds, while picking Rubio as the likely (though not inevitable, as Romney was at this point in 2012) winner? Five reasons…