SPRINGFIELD– Tonight’s Iowa caucuses may kick off presidential voting, but it may not be a make-or-break night for all candidates, according to some political observers in Illinois.
With nearly a dozen major candidates to choose from on the Republican side, Chicago Republican Party chairman Chris Cleveland feels the results from Iowa may be more important for those further down in the polls.
“It’s likely that a number of candidates will drop out if they don’t even register in Iowa or New Hampshire or any of the other early states,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland is the Illinois co-chairman for Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign, and said he believes the Iowa results are more important for Donald Trump’s chances of capturing the nomination than they are for Cruz.
On the Democratic side, Cleveland said he expects Republican voters in Illinois are too concerned with the race in their own party to be doing something like rooting for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to beat Hillary Clinton, despite Clinton’s lead in national polling.
“I don’t think anybody really is that calculating,” Cleveland said. “For the average voter, I think they’re just thinking about their own circumstances, they’re looking at the terrible economic condition that Illinois is in right now, and which candidate is really going to help us out of this mess.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is backing Clinton’s campaign, but said a loss to Sanders in Iowa or in the Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire doesn’t worry him.
“He has the edge in those states,” Durbin said. “We know from history that those states at least have unpredictable results when it comes to the final choice of president.”
In the last three presidential elections without a Democratic incumbent, the eventual nominee was victorious in Iowa. It’s been a different story on the Republican side, with the winners in the caucuses in both 2012 and 2008 failing to secure the nomination.
Durbin doesn’t think highly of the Republican field, calling it “bedlam,” and has been critical of Trump’s comments during the campaign.
“Mr. Trump, despite saying the most outrageous things I’ve ever heard from a mainstream presidential candidate, continues to grow in popularity among Republicans in the United States. I don’t get it,” Durbin said. “The Republicans I know in this state, though we may disagree on many things, I don’t think they’re cut from the same cloth as Donald Trump.”
The caucuses begin at 7 p.m. tonight. Illinois voters won’t have their say in the presidential race until March 15.