“Ted Cruz, who established himself as Iowa’s prohibitive favorite in early January with an intimidating show of force, is suddenly under siege one week before the caucuses as rival Republicans pummel him and as opposition to his presidential candidacy from the state’s political and business elite hardens.
Although Cruz is campaigning aggressively, his advisers are concerned about the barrage and are now scrambling to reset expectations for him here. They insisted Monday that the senator from Texas always has been the “underdog” in Iowa and argued that a second-place finish to Donald Trump should be interpreted as a mark of grit and would catapult him onward in the nominating contest.
“I can’t guarantee we’ll win,” Cruz told a group of pastors Monday at a private meeting in Cedar Rapids. “I don’t know that. That’s out of my hands. I believe we have a path to victory.”
Still, a loss in Iowa — the state where Cruz has campaigned the most and where the GOP’s deeply conservative base seems a natural fit — would call into question the depth of his coalition. Also at stake is the credibility of his vaunted data and field operation, which in Iowa is believed to be more sophisticated than any other Republican’s.
Cruz’s standing for weeks atop many Iowa polls has thrust him into the crosshairs. Trump is hitting him relentlessly over his Canadian birth and his “nasty” reputation in Washington, while using the endorsement of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to drive a wedge with evangelicals. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) is portraying Cruz as a calculating politician and proponent of European-style economics. Fellow religious- conservative candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are charging that he is a fraud.”