Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump poses with a ring given to him by a group of veterans during a campaign event on the campus of Drake University Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The final Iowa poll from Selzer and Co., sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg, didn't suggest a race that was much different from what the polling averages had suggested. Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by a little on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, Donald Trump has re-taken the lead from Ted Cruz.

But those numbers matter less than other numbers buried inside the poll. The Iowa caucuses, after all, aren't just another election where voters trudge to a nearby church and punch a hole in a piece of paper. Both Democrats and Republicans will try to convince each other in the room to vote for a particular candidate, and on the Demcoratic side, supporters of candidates without much support (Martin O'Malley) will have to align with a candidate that's more viable.

With an eye to that aspect of the vote, the poll looks different. This is a good poll for Hillary Clinton. The numbers for Donald Trump are a bit weaker.

The Democrats

Since October, Clinton has held a lead over Sanders in Iowa, according to Selzer polling. (Which, in case you hadn't heard, is the go-to for Iowa election results.) When you factor in the second choices of most voters, the picture is the same: A close race.


Again, though, remember that O'Malley's supporters will have to go to either Clinton or Sanders if he can't get the support of 15 percent of the people in the room. According to the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs, O'Malley's backers are split about evenly.

That's not what Sanders backers would want to see. The O'Malley vote isn't necessarily an anyone-but-Clinton vote, as one might logically assume.

There are other indicators that Clinton's support in the state may be more robust than some might have thought. More of her backers say they're unlikely to change their minds, for example.


On other measures, Clinton and Sanders are about tied. Backers of each report being about equally excited about voting for their candidates. Interestingly, four-in-five backers of each say that they never considered voting for the other leading candidate.

Here, as in most surveys, Sanders's support is heavier with people who've never caucused before. That's risky, since reported first-time voters are less likely to go vote -- and the caucus process itself can be tricky.

Sanders also saw an uptick in the number of people who view him unfavorably since earlier this month, perhaps in part thanks to Clinton going after him more directly. On net -- subtracting his unfavorables from those who view him favorably -- he's still viewed better than Clinton, but less so than he was a few weeks ago.


To summarize, then: Clinton's base of support is as energized, slightly more committed and slightly more likely to vote.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Iowans are cool with a socialist -- but we knew that.

Historically, Democrats have better field programs than Republicans. In that Democratic race, we can assume that Clinton and Sanders will both have a good organization driving to the polls. They've run before. Keep that in mind as we look at the other party.

The Republicans

Let's get this out of the way: Most Republicans didn't care that Trump skipped the debate.


Okay. Fine. So.

The best news in this poll for Trump is in that graph at the left, below. For the first time in months, the "gold standard" poll has Trump in the lead.

But that second graph? Trump's fans love him, but the second choices of voters tend to got to other people. Put first and second choices together (and throw in people who are leaning toward a candidate) and Ted Cruz comes out on top. Trump is tied with Rubio.


Don't believe that Trump has a love-hate relationship with Iowa Republicans? Check out his net favorability.


Trump's in first place, and the number of people who look at him negatively is about equal to those who view him positively. Which is both weird and not a great sign.

(And don't believe that negative campaigning works? Cruz's net favorability sank 20 points since the beginning of the month. In Selzer's last poll, they found that Iowans don't care about his place of birth, but perhaps that's not entirely the case.)

Granted, Trump continues to lead the field in the number of people who say their minds are made up in his favor. (The pollsters didn’t ask about Rubio’s supporters in their last poll.)


Despite Trump gaining in the polls, though, Iowa Republicans on the whole are growing less enthusiastic about the idea of his being the nominee -- or the president. That's the opposite of Ted Cruz.


But he has to get there first. Like Sanders, Trump's support is far stronger among those who've never caucused before.

That's risky, if Trump can't turn them out. A first-time candidate, he's building a campaign operation from scratch. If anecdotal counts for anything (which, you be the judge), attendees at a Trump rally today told our Jenna Johnson that they'd been contacted by the campaign repeatedly.

We'll see on Monday if that is good enough to turn Trump's poll lead into a win.