Based on the recent polling, this year’s Republican race in Iowa could resemble the 2008 Democratic contest between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards (not necessarily in that order). You will see a top three bunched closely together with the rest of the candidates lagging behind.
If Iowa was a primary, Rick Santorum would clearly win. He has the momentum, the support of late deciders, and a poll surge that will allow him to peel off support from other similar but less viable candidates. But Iowa is not a primary, and in this byzantine caucus system I am going to give the edge to ground game and organization over organic popularity. (I’m aware that Michele Bachmann was able to beat organization with popularity in Ames and that this all goes out the window if 60 percent of the caucus-goers are evangelicals.)
Mitt Romney wins the Iowa caucuses. He is the candidate who does best under the most scenarios. Again based on organizational strength, Ron Paul squeaks past Santorum. Santorum finishes a strong third. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry both break into the double digits, but are separated from the top tier by more percentage points than the top three candidates are separated from each other.