To the question of whether Cruz is peaking too soon in Iowa, the answer is: What makes you think he’s peaked? He’s in first at 40 percent in the new CBS poll. This may understate his dominance. He has 66 percent of the very conservative vote. The four other candidates, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum, who are directly in his “lane” — although this is always overly simplistic — are collectively at 11 percent. He has solid leads on the candidate qualities of electability, preparedness, and effectiveness (and narrowly trails Ben Carson on being relatable). Trump, who is in second trailing Cruz by nine points, has surprised me before (indeed, has surprised me much of the time). But at this juncture, it’s a little hard to see him winning Iowa without running ads against Cruz.
In the other CBS polls, Cruz is in a (distant) second in New Hampshire and a respectable second in South Carolina, behind Trump in both places. Indeed, it’s possible to see Cruz or Trump running the table of the early states. This never happens, in part because voters want to stop a coronation, but that it is lined up this way at the moment is a testament to how Cruz and Trump, in their own ways, have captured the mood of the party.