And that's what I did. And do you know what I found out? After watching a few of the clips (has anyone in America not seen the one of Ted Cruz above?) and reading everything I could, I've decided that Thursday night's events didn't change anything. (So maybe I was smart to get a good night's sleep.)
Even though I was skeptical of Trump's gamble not to attend the Fox News debate (it still doesn't feel right in my gut), I'm almost completely alone in thinking that. Nearly everyone -- no, everyone -- thought Trump won the night. And far be it from me to question the Donald's strategy. Like almost everyone else in America, I've been wrong about Trump's chances so far, while
Never mind the polls -- they're highly unreliable. Look at the betting markets instead. They're not perfect -- Intrade predicted Obama would win the New Hampshire primary in 2008 -- but they are the best indicator we have. And, after Thursday night, Paddy Power didn't budge:
Now, as everyone will tell you, turnout is huge. If Trump can get his supporters -- many of them first-time voters -- to caucus, he'll win. If not, he'll disappoint. (Same with Sanders on the Democratic side.)
(Just so you know, the weather forecast for Des Moines on Monday is cloudy with a high of 39 degrees and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation. No reason not to go out. Tuesday, on the other hand, has a 100 percent chance of 5-8 inches of snow. Could the weather forecast mean the difference between a Donald Trump presidency or not?)
Finally, everyone is talking about Cruz's ground game, i. e., his campaign's ability to turn out voters. It's pretty much axiomatic these days to say that a winning candidate has to have a good "organization." But I had a Twitter "conversation" with none other than Matthew Dowd recently in which he said that ground game is vastly overrated. And if that's true, Trump should turn his good poll numbers into actual votes.
So I'm going to go with the betting markets and say Trump and Hillary take Iowa.
P. S. The current thinking among the chattering class is that Rubio is going to finish a strong third in Iowa. I'll say one of the stories on Tuesday morning is how he underperformed expectations. I don't get the fascination with this guy; he just doesn't impress me at all. Everyone seems to think Rubio is a great "orator" with an "optimistic" message. Really? How come I don't see that?