Who's up and who's down in the GOP presidential race

Ted Cruz is surging in Iowa; indeed, I believe he is favored to win there.  But even so, Donald Trump is still currently the candidate favored to win the nomination.  Let's go over the chances for Trump, Cruz, and Rubio one by one.

Donald Trump: 50% chance of winning the nomination.  Some polls have Trump ahead in Iowa; others have Ted Cruz ahead.  Regardless, Trump is in such a strong position that he can afford to come in second in Iowa and still be the favorite.  He's heavily favored in both New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Remember the magic 32% number.  That's roughly the number that Trump needs to average state by state to win the nomination outright.  It's less than 51% because of the many states that award delegates based on a winner-take-all system.  Right now Trump is at 33% in national polls, though it varies wildly from poll to poll from 27% to 41%.

But even if Trump slips in popularity and gets only 40% or 45% of the delegates he needs, chances are he will still be the nominee because of the likelihood that Ted Cruz will join forces with him over Marco Rubio.  So if Trump merely gets the largest number of delegates, chances are he'll be the nominee, and right now he's still very well positioned to do that.

Ted Cruz: 35% chance of winning the nomination.  I believe the polls showing Ted Cruz, not Donald Trump, ahead in Iowa, because past winners in Iowa (Huckabee, Santorum) had the support of Evangelical activists who play a disproportionate role in the caucus process.  And right now Ted Cruz has the lion's share of that support.  I think he is very likely to win Iowa.

But even if he does, it is still an uphill battle from there.  Ted Cruz doesn't do well in the northeast, especially a primary state like New Hampshire that allows independent voters.  That's strong Donald Trump territory that even an Iowa win will not crack.  Indeed, it is very common for Iowa and New Hampshire to choose different winners.  While Huckabee and Santorum won Iowa in their respective years, Romney and McCain won New Hampshire in theirs.  And guess who ended up being the eventual nominee.

So it all comes down to South Carolina, and whether a Cruz victory in Iowa can cause him to win South Carolina.  If Ted Cruz can't win in South Carolina, he's going to have a hard time winning the nomination, and at the moment, it looks like an uphill (though far from impossible) challenge.  That's why I rate him at 35% at the moment and Trump at 50%.

Marco Rubio: 15% chance of winning.  Marco Rubio needs to win somewhere, anywhere.  We know it's not going to be Iowa.  It could be New Hampshire if Trump collapses, as he is showing no sign of doing.  It could be N.H. if the other moderates pull out, as they show no sign of doing.  Jeb, Kasich, and some of the other moderates will probably withdraw after they lose New Hampshire, and that moderate vote may coalesce around Rubio, but by then it may be too late for him to get momentum.

If there is a brokered three-way convention, Rubio is in the worst possible situation, because Trump and Cruz are ideologically much closer to each other than to him.  That's why right now, at least, there is no clear path to victory for Rubio.  That may change, however, after Bush, Kasich, and Christie withdraw.

This article was written by Ed Straker, senior writer of NewsMachete.com, the conservative news site.

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