This is it — caucus day, Iowa's last chance to make a complete mess of the presidential campaign. Nate Silver's calling the odds this morning at 67% likely to go for Hillary and 46% likely to go for Trump.
It's not looking great for Bernie, but who knows — the day could hold plenty of last-minute surprises, and caucus-goers could always flip at the last minute.
In fact, there's a good chance that over on the Republican side, some Iowans may abandon Ted Cruz. And Ted has no one to blame but himself, the poor guy.
Ted and Trump have been wiggling back and forth in the polls, trading the #1 position with each other for most of January depending on which survey you look at. Trump's taken a more commanding lead in the last week, and even though Cruz has an advantage with more endorsements and better national polling, with just hours left in the Iowa race it's looking like Trump's going to take it.
So! Cruz's people have put together a little last-minute deal-closer, designed to entice their supporters to come out to caucus. And alas, it may blow up in their faces.
The foundation of their idea is sound: some research from 2008, indicating that voters are more likely to vote if they know that their neighbors have been voting. It's a weird psychological trick called "norm compliance," whereby humans will fall in line with social norms if they're publicized.
It might've worked except Cruz's campaign, true to the candidate's spirit, got really really mean with their mailers. They sent out scary-looking letters with "voter violation" stamped on them, assigning failing-grades to recipients with a threat to tell their neighbors if they didn't vote.
Pretty much everyone who's gotten one has recoiled in annoyance, and now people who were on the fence for Cruz are turning to the alternatives. (Not that Trump's a nice guy, but at least he didn't send what looks like a collection agency after the people he's trying to woo.)
It seems that the Cruz campaign might've inadvertently skipped past "norm compliance" and accidentally triggered a different phenomenon: "reactance," which is what happens when you feel like someone's trying to pressure you and you defiantly adopt a contrary position.
Beyond that, there are approximately a billion other problems with Cruz's mailer. It's unbelievably misleading, designed to look like something that came from a government office. "Official public record," it says at the top. Also, the letter grades it's assigned recipients are clearly made-up; they just gave everyone an "F." Also, they threaten to send updated voter scores after the caucus, which isn't possible since the caucus votes aren't recorded by the state.
Also: there are plenty of legitimate reasons for a person not to vote. The New Yorker talked to a lady who's disabled and finds the caucuses (which take hours and involve a lot of energetic verbal sparring) far too difficult to attend. "I wish he would quit," she said of Cruz.