Sarah Palin's dramatic endorsement of Donald Trump in Iowa was as much about optics and New
Hampshire as it was about Iowa.
With current polls in Iowa showing the race effectively tied, some have Cruz in front, the majority have Trump ahead, the call went to Palin as the deal maker/circuit breaker. This is nothing new of course with Palin having performed near miracles by endorsing then electrifying the campaigns of, amongst others Cruz/Ayotte/Haley/Fischer/Sasse.
If he lost, even narrowly, in Iowa it would destroy that scenario, take away the mantle of "untouchable front-runner" and, possibly worse of all, put New Hampshire, where he has a strong aggregate lead in the polls, in doubt and give heart, if not a win, to an Establishment candidate.
That would be a disaster as Trump would head to South Carolina with an empowered Cruz, an Establishment (and it's media) crowing that voters will now coalesce around one Establishment candidate who will battle it out with Cruz.
Even if Trump lost both states it would not mean the end of his campaign necessarily, but it would mean a long dragged out acrimonious affair which would benefit nobody in the GOP. This is why Palin's endorsement (and possibly Huckabee's) in Iowa if it gives him the winning edge, may be the vital element in Trump's march to the nomination.
In the aggregate Trump is in a seemingly impregnable position in New Hampshire with a 17.7% lead as the Real Clear Politics chart below shows.
The danger for him is the new ARG poll which has Kasich only 7 points behind Trump 27% to 20%. Whilst, as the graph lines show Trump is still ascending Kasich, who has received a number of local newspaper endorsements, is also clearly ascending in the polls from 7% to 20% in only two weeks.
Of course the ARG poll may be an outlier, but even if it is the trend for Kasich is unmistakable. Cruz clearly has no chance in New Hampshire-even if he wins Iowa. His supporters may vote tactically for Kasich if Cruz wins or comes close in Iowa as may Fiorina's.
The Kasich scenario I set out is fraught with danger. Trump sees it I think and called in the back-up just in time. I think the establishment sees their schemes unravel thus the maniacal response after Palin's endorsement
There is much at stake in Iowa, more than "bragging rights." Once again Palin's endorsement may be the difference not only in winning a state but a nomination and a presidency.