The flaw in Cruz's SEC strategy: No football tailgates?

'Inside Politics' Forecast
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'Inside Politics' Forecast 03:59

Story highlights

  • Could trail and TV time be the answer to Sanders' sagging poll numbers?
  • Iowa gives campaigns a belated Christmas gift: January

Washington (CNN) Trail time for Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire nervousness, kinks in Ted Cruz's strong SEC primary ground game, who's next in the Iowa air wars, and a belated Christmas gift from the Hawkeye State -- those are the future headlines in the "Inside Politics" forecast this week.

1. Losing Bernie-mentum -- is the answer more trail time?

Before the DNC database controversy, The Daily Beast's Jackie Kucinich reports, some of Sen. Bernie Sanders' most ardent supporters were concerned that they weren't seeing enough of him.
    Is Sanders begining to losing momentum?
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    Is Sanders begining to losing momentum? 00:33
    He hasn't traveled as much as Hillary Clinton in recent weeks and they are worried he's losing the momentum that carried him through the summer.
    "Congressman Raul Grijalva, one of the two that have endorsed Sanders, told me he wants to see him on TV more, and another supporter, (former Ohio state Sen.) Nina Turner, hopes he uses the database melee to really get out there more," said Kucinich. "He's going to Iowa a little bit next week and we'll see if he picks up the pace like some of the supporters hope."

    2. The flaw in Cruz's SEC strategy: Football tailgates

    A lot of Republicans talk about focusing on the South, the region that hosts the pivotal "SEC" primaries in eight states on March 1, but as CNN's Phil Mattingly points out, few have backed it up with action like Sen. Ted Cruz.
    Ted Cruz's 'SEC' strategy
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    Cruz is in the middle of a second SEC primary barnstorming tour that ends Wednesday in Oklahoma, and his team is feeling good about its Southern strategy.
    "There's a heavy evangelical base down there and they think his focus on those states sets him apart," said Mattingly. "There's not a lot of time after those early states to really refocus and rejigger your team. Ted Cruz is already there."
    "One problem with his strategy though: Jeb Bush probably had the best way of doing this -- going to SEC football games. That's where you should focus. It's not where Ted Cruz is focused but his team is down there and in full effect right now."

    3. New Hampshire nervousness: Will Christie be the comeback kid or could Trump take the Granite State?

    While New Hampshire takes pride in not being a rubber stamp for what Iowa voters did, Donald Trump is leading there. This has some Republicans concerned, but RealClearPolitics' Caitlin Huey-Burns reveals that in her conversations with Granite State natives, they insist that voters there make up their minds late, and that there is still time for an upset.
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    And she notes that while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has the momentum after spending more than 50 days in New Hampshire this cycle and racking up endorsements, the race is still wide open.
    "Christie has the momentum but (Marco) Rubio is doing well," said Huey-Burns. "And Ted Cruz could be a wild card there, depending how well he does in Iowa."
    "Republicans in the state are growing concerned not only about the future of the party if Trump succeeds, but also the future of their own primary."

    4. The Iowa ad wars: Who will be the next to engage?

    How soon after Christmas do the Iowa air wars begin?
    Iowa ad wars --who's next?
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    Iowa ad wars --who's next? 00:37
    Cruz aired a new Dr. Seuss-style parody Saturday night during "Saturday Night Live" that included him reading such classics as "Rudolph The Unemployed Reindeer" and "The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails" to his two daughters next to their Christmas tree.
    But The New York Times' Jonathan Martin says it is unlikely that any of the campaigns or super PACs would start a flight of real negative ads this week.
    "You have Marco Rubio's supporters dropping two mail pieces on Ted Cruz," said Martin. "You have Ted Cruz with an ad that's obliquely negative on Marco Rubio. But we haven't seen the fireworks we have a feeling are coming."
    "But given the fact that Cruz is now hitting Rubio, obliquely at least, on immigration, I've got to think it's Rubio and that it's coming soon."

    5. Iowa's campaign gift

    A rare presidential campaign season gift is coming to campaigns, voters and political reporters everywhere -- namely January. The whole month.
    Iowa's Christmas gift: an extra campaign month
    Iowa's Christmas gift: an extra campaign month

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    Iowa's Christmas gift: an extra campaign month 00:59
    The Iowa caucuses are in February for the first time since 1996. In 2012 and 2008 they were actually on January 3.
    CNN's John Berman reports that this important present boils down to options that haven't existed in recent presidential primaries. How much time can candidates spend in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond?
    "The strategists I talk to say the candidates with the biggest choices are Marco Rubio: How hard does he compete in Iowa? How low can he afford to finish in New Hampshire? And also Donald Trump. Is he capable of managing expectations in Iowa, or does he go all in?"