The news that Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator, is beating Donald Trump by 10 percentage points in the latest polls in Iowa, increases the possibility that he will be the eventual Republican nominee.
Iowa will host the first contest of the Primary season. It will be followed by New Hampshire where Trump still leads the Republican field by a large margin.
Also according to the latest research, Cruz would be 2.5 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton is a General Election contest confined to the two of them, and probably further behind if Donald Trump were to enter the race as a third party candidate. Trump would be even further behind Clinton in a two candidate race.
The potential Republican Presidential candidate most likely to beat Hillary Clinton is a head to head is Ben Carson, and that is by just 0.4 percentage points over a range of polls.
Senator Rubio of Florida has also been ahead of her in some polls.
Jeb Bush would lose to her but by a narrower margin than most of his Republican rivals, but the early primaries are not ones in which he can be expected to do well.
Cruz has a poor record of working with fellow Senators and some Republican leaders have suggested they might not even vote for him in November.
He gave a speech in the Heritage Foundation recently which sets out his foreign policy approach.
He wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and raised the spectre of “terrorists swimming across the Rio Grande”. He says that 40% of illegal immigrants in the US are visa overstays.
He says the US needs “moral clarity” in it foreign policy. “That starts with defining our enemy” he claims.
This is a mistaken view. Moral clarity, I would argue, starts by defining one’s OWN values rather than by defining ones enemy. But defining one own values is much harder work, than is picking an enemy.
He argues for a foreign policy based on pursuit of America’s interests, and against making democracy promotion a central goal. He is thus critical of US support for regime change in Egypt, Libya and Syria. “We do not have a side in the Syrian Civil War” he states frankly.
In many ways Ted Cruz is appealing to the same core views as Donald Trump. Both are addressing anxieties among the American middle class that America’s standing in the world, both materially and psychologically, has diminished.
It is something that is important to them, and goes to the heart of their identity. This sense of decline is accentuated by the fact that middle class incomes in the US have stagnated, while the top tier of society has gained.
Hillary Clinton would like to address this question, but many of her financial backers would lose if she did so. While she is well ahead in most Democratic contests, she could lose to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. Sanders is from the neighbouring state of Vermont.
She also has to cope with the conclusion of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email for State department business. Disclosure of classified information to outsiders would be a serious matter if it is found to have occurred, inadvertently or otherwise. Evidence of any subsequent attempt to cover up mistakes would also be a big problem.
One has the sense, at this stage, that the Presidential Election next November will not settle things, and the United States will remain deeply divided, with at least one house of the Congress continuing to resist the President of the day.