U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has surged in Republican polls in Iowa, which a political analyst says is a crucial state for the GOP presidential candidate.
If Cruz can pull in most of the evangelical vote, "he should come out of Iowa at least in second place," predicts Dr. Charles Dunn.
The Iowa Caucuses, now two months away, are the first major test of the GOP field.
RealClearPolitics shows Donald Trump continues to lead the candidates, with Cruz in second place and Sen. Marco Rubio in third.
A coup for Cruz in Iowa
(Associated Press) - A prominent Iowa evangelical leader has endorsed Ted Cruz for president.
It's a coup for the Texas senator, who has heavily courted churches and pastors in an effort to win the state's leadoff caucuses.
Bob Vander Plaats announced his endorsement Thursday in Des Moines, calling Cruz a "serious leader for serious times."
Vander Plaats stresses it is a personal endorsement, not one on behalf of The Family Leader, the influential group he leads. The group's board has decided not to formally back a 2016 candidate.
Vander Plaats supported former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012 and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008. Both won the caucuses, but neither went on to win the GOP nomination.
But the latest Monmouth University poll shows Cruz has jumped ahead of Trump 24 to 19 among Republicans in Iowa. That same poll shows Rubio is second, behind Trump, at 17 percent.
Trailing in both the RealClearPolitics compilation, and in the Monmouth poll, is Dr. Ben Carson. He is trailing Rubio in fourth place in both polls.
Meanwhile, Dunn says the candidacy of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, is nearing its end.
"Increasingly it looks like, barring a miracle, Jeb Bush is dead," Dunn says, who predicts there will be other candidates dropping out after the Iowa voting.
The current Monmouth poll shows Bush polling at six percent among Iowa voters.
In the short term, says Dunn, Trump will remain in front and his comment about banning Muslims from entering the United States will likely help his popularity.