There’s a blizzard headed to Iowa.
Not the snow kind, although that may be a problem next week. Instead, it’s a political snowstorm — Saturday, thirteen major candidates will campaign in the state. Only Ohio Gov. John Kasich is missing.
As always, the weekend will set expectations for all the campaigns. The Des Moines Register will release its widely respected poll Saturday evening. All of Iowa is now a spin room, with pundits and pols arguing over where to set the bar for every hopeful.
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Here’s a look.
Donald Trump: The businessman is all-in this weekend, trying to hang on in the final hours. A second place finish wouldn’t be fatal, but it would hurt. Some here are whispering about third place, which would be a big problem.
Remember, no one has ever actually cast a vote for The Donald. We’ll know Monday if Trumpmania is real, or a mirage.
Ted Cruz: Nothing but bad press over the last week, which may be exaggerated. Cruz has run a classic Iowa campaign — organize, and win religious conservatives — and still may pull out a victory. A poor second, or third, would hurt the campaign.
Marco Rubio: Stock rising. They won’t call themselves front-runners, but if there’s any late movement, it may be here. Needs to finish in top three.
Ben Carson: The doctor has lots of fans in Iowa. Tuesday, the political press will marvel at how well he did. But: it’s downhill from here.
Jeb Bush: Applause for his debate performance may help slightly. Must finish in top five, and be closer to four than six. Double-digits would be nice.
Chris Christie: Wants to be the top governor, not a heavy lift. Fourth place would be a miracle, but sixth or seventh seems more likely. Debate could help.
Rand Paul: Will libertarian students caucus for the Kentucky senator? If yes, he’ll get a nice bump. If not, he’ll quit. His state’s senate race is calling.
John Kasich, Carly Fiorina: Low single digits. New Hampshire is the only hope.
Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum: The last two winners of the Iowa caucuses don’t have a prayer. Both may leave the campaign before New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton: She could lose to Bernie Sanders, but if it’s close she should be okay. A poor second — say, six or seven points behind — would raise serious questions about her strategy and approach. The email controversy won’t go away either.
Bernie Sanders: The classic expectations problem. Six months ago, no one thought Sanders would get ten percent of Iowa’s vote. Now, he’s a 50-50 favorite to win — and anything less, like a big loss to Clinton, would be seen as a disappointment. Iowans may feel the Bern, but once the fire is lit, you have to keep it stoked.
Martin O’Malley: Good candidate, solid record. No chance here.