Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speak during a commercial break in the sixth Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 14, 2016.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

Latest polling sets the stage for Republicans’ key stretch

With just one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, the latest polling from Fox News, released yesterday, shows only one competitive candidate headed in the right direction.
1. Donald Trump: 34% (up from 23% in a Fox poll in early January)
2. Ted Cruz: 23% (down from 27%)
3. Marco Rubio: 12% (down from 15%)
4. Ben Carson: 7% (down from 9%)
5. Rand Paul: 6% (up from 5%)
The rest of the GOP field was below 5%. Trump’s 34% backing is the best any Republican has fared in a Fox poll in Iowa this cycle.
And how about the New Hampshire primary, now just 15 days away? Fox’s new results show the Granite State shaping up this way:
1. Donald Trump: 31% (down from 33% in a Fox poll in early January)
2. Ted Cruz: 14% (up from 12%)
3. Marco Rubio: 13% (down from 15%)
4. John Kasich: 9% (up from 7%)
5. Jeb Bush: 7% (down from 9%)
6. Chris Christie: 7% (up from 5%)
The rest of the GOP field was at 5% or lower.
Finally, Fox also published a national poll, which Rachel highlighted on Friday night’s show.
1. Donald Trump: 34% (down from 35% in a Fox poll in early January)
2. Ted Cruz: 20% (unchanged)
3. Marco Rubio: 11% (down from 12%)
4. Ben Carson: 8% (down from 10%)
Oddly enough, this quartet features the only candidates polling above 5%.
So, what are we to make of this landscape? You don’t have to be a political expert to notice who’s dominating, but before anyone starts making unshakable assumptions, there is some precedent for presidential candidates making very late surges as the Iowa caucuses approach.

In 2004, Iowa Democrats appeared divided between Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, while John Kerry trailed late in the process. When it counted, however, Kerry closed strong and won with relative ease. Dean and Gephardt finished third and fourth, respectively, winning just two of Iowa’s 99 counties between them.

In 2012, Rick Santorum’s 2012 campaign appeared to be failing miserably in Iowa – two weeks before the big day, some polling showed him in fifth place – but he nevertheless quickly gained support at the end and narrowly won the caucuses.
In other words, with just one week remaining, we know what the polls tell us now, but that only offers us a hint about what the results will look like when the dust settles.