Will Trump and Sanders win Iowa? Pundits weigh in

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The Hill asked pundits from both parties, and one independent, to predict the winners in today's Iowa caucuses. Here's what they had to say.

Republicans:

Former Rep. John LeBoutillier (R-N.Y.)

Winner: Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBryan Cranston on Trump: 'There’s nothing there’ Trump points to plane, says it could be Mexico 'ready to attack' Needed: a presidential candidate that can pass the ‘burning house test' MORE

There will be unprecedented turnout featuring tens of thousands of first-time GOP caucus attendees; caucus sites will report a "flood" of newly registered attendees.

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This turnout was presaged for the past six months by the huge crowds The Donald generated all across the nation — and the extraordinarily high TV ratings of the five GOP debates he attended.

Despite backing out of the Fox News debate Thursday night, Trump will prevail and win the Iowa GOP caucuses. But he would have won by an even larger margin if he had not gone to war against Fox and dropped out of the debate. That move blunted his upward momentum and made the race surprisingly close.

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzFirst trans Senate candidate: My gender won’t be an issue Will Never Trump forces draft Romney to run? Mike Lee: Trump 'accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK' MORE (Texas) will finish right on Trump's heels; Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioPoll: Rubio holds massive lead in primary Rubio: Turkey attack 'directed' by ISIS Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (Fla.) will be third.

LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News Channel.

Matt Mackowiak

Winner: Cruz

This year's Iowa caucuses are perhaps the most unpredictable I can remember. That said, the Republican race has been primarily between Trump and Cruz for weeks.

Cruz has built the best ground organization in Iowa on the GOP side in recent memory, boasting of 1,500 precinct captains and over 12,000 volunteers. Trump is counting on first-time caucusgoers and is even targeting Democrats, urging them to switch parties on caucus night.

The 2012 turnout of 121,900 will be surpassed, but I expect it only to be surpassed by 10 to 20 percent. I suspect overall turnout will be 140,000, with heavy snow in parts of Iowa Monday night.

Here's how I predict the Republican candidates will finish:

Cruz, 30 percent
Trump, 25
Rubio, 19
Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office Trump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report Trump flexes new digital muscle MORE (Ky.), 7
Ben Carson, 6
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), 4
Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.), 3
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), 2
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), 2
Carly Fiorina, 1
Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), 1

Now if turnout surpasses 170,000, Trump will likely win by perhaps 3 percentage points or so. Trump's ground organization is the whole ballgame. The Des Moines Register's last poll, which had Trump ahead 28 percent to 23 percent versus Cruz, has GOP turnout projected at 368,000 — which is impossible.

Mackowiak is a syndicated columnist; an Austin, Texas-based Republican consultant; and a former Capitol Hill and George W. Bush administration aide.

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Trump (by a full head of hair)

On paper, any political junkie would think Cruz's candidacy is tailor-made to win the 2016 Iowa caucuses (ethanol aside). The state has an outsized evangelical population and Cruz's campaign has been focused on the ground game needed to win in a caucus format from the beginning. But nothing in this cycle has gone according to the traditional script. While Trump might not meet the checklist of an ideological conservative whom Iowans tend to lust after, his bravado will win the day in the Hawkeye State precisely because many Iowa Republicans believe he will fight for them. When faced with that proposition, any good political strategist knows emotion trumps logic nearly every time in a tightly contested battle.

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, worked on John McCainJohn McCainMcCain wants hearings on lifting of military's transgender ban Needed: a presidential candidate that can pass the ‘burning house test' Group hopes to have independent candidate by end of July MORE's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."

Democrats:

Brent Budowsky

Winner: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhy won't Democrats go as far as Clinton did on Israel? Sanders gets another extension for personal financial disclosure Biden to make first campaign stop for Clinton in Pa. MORE (I-Vt.)

The Iowa caucus vote is the most unpredictable in many years. I have little confidence in any predictions.

For Democrats, I expect a very high and enthusiastic turnout from female Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAnalysis: Social Security to run dry three years sooner than expected Needed: a presidential candidate that can pass the ‘burning house test' Why won't Democrats go as far as Clinton did on Israel? MORE supporters over age 55 and party establishment stalwarts who prefer conventional experience to change and are worried by the prospect of a Sanders nomination.

I expect Sanders to attract a very high turnout from the most-committed liberals, moderate reform-oriented independents who can register Democratic and vote in the caucus and young voters. Among the young, I emphasize not only college students, but high school age students who are 17 years old but will turn 18 before Election Day and are thus eligible to vote in the caucus — a point missed by most commentators.

Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are well-organized to get out their votes. The most probable outcome is a virtual tie, though I would not be shocked if either of the candidates pulls away by a surprisingly large margin. If forced to pick a winner of a close race, I would give the edge to Sanders.

Here's why: The enthusiasm factor is extremely high for all Sanders supporters, so I suspect that he will outperform his polls. And this may be the election in which social media takes center stage. If so, neither the mainstream media, nor conventional pollsters, are picking up the full degree of support for Sanders.

Iowa will begin to answer two key questions about the 2016 campaign. Will anti-establishment voters turn out in droves? My guess is yes. Will social media play a greater role than pundits expect? My guess is yes. Could the conventional polling be missing something big? I suspect yes. For now, I give a slight edge to Sanders.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.

Nomiki Konst

Winner: Sanders

America is no stranger to revolutions, as the founders understood how generational change was essential for our republic. Both parties are experiencing their own revolutions; each a product of a rebellion against the establishment and a reflection of seismic demographic shifts. The Republican establishment sees its future members as ethnically diverse, socially liberal and capitalist — but its populist, conservative base feels disenfranchised. Alternately, Blue Dog Democrats face an insurgence by a younger, socially and economically liberal wing of the party that feels unheard and dismissed by the leadership of the past generation.

We're seeing the two revolutions play out in Iowa. Sanders's campaign represents the future (and progress) of Democrats: authentic, populist and entrepreneurial. Clinton struggles as she campaigns on more of the same, which is less encouraging to progressives, who mobilize off of inspiration and idealism. Sanders's vision may be idealistic, but the best leaders negotiate to the center, not from the center. Ultimately, I project that the 78 percent of the 18-to-44 demographic who support Sanders will turn out in record numbers for him, a candidate who presents solutions to existing issues, rather than for a continuation of a course that has ignored the future of the Democratic Party.

Konst is a political analyst and communications strategist regularly appearing on national media outlets discussing politics. She is founder and executive director of The Accountability Project, an investigative news start-up centered on political corruption. She is also the host of The Accountability Podcast, the only podcast that solely focuses on political corruption.

Former Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.)

Winner: Clinton

If I were setting the odds, here's what I'd look at. The money looks tight; the polls are just as tight. Sanders has ideas that appeal to many; Clinton has a boatload of experience, and I note that she's smiling more. The pundits have hypothesized on virtually every aspect of Clinton's and Sanders's treks to and through Iowa. Clinton has high-profile endorsements and Sanders has established himself as the people's guy.

So who wins? Organization always trumps. Clinton has the organization to get the vote out in more caucuses, so Sanders could get more votes, but less delegates. I predict that Clinton, ultimately, wins more delegates.

Owens represented New York's North Country from 2009 until retiring from the House in 2015. He is a partner in the Plattsburgh, N.Y., firm of Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC.

Independent:

Robert Leonard

Winners: Trump and Clinton

For the Republicans, Trump will win. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was right. Back at the dawn of time — September — in caucus-land, Walker quit. He then played the martyr and called for other candidates to drop out so conservatives could rally around an alternative to Trump. They are finally starting to rally, behind Rubio. Cruz is fading fast for many reasons, but mainly because it took many Iowans longer than his Senate colleagues to learn that they don't like him. Rubio is starting to be seen as the only candidate who can beat Clinton. Going out on a limb, I’m calling it Trump, Rubio, then Cruz.

Iowa's Democrats are more progressive than often thought. Entering the 2008 caucuses, then-presidential candidate Barack ObamaBarack ObamaAnalysis: Social Security to run dry three years sooner than expected Former CIA chief shuts down Trump's calls for waterboarding Clinton camp: Trump's fundraising 'bragging is total bunk' MORE was up only 1.6 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics poll average and beat Clinton by 8 points. Logic says I should go with Sanders, but with Iowans liking her foreign policy experience, my gut says Clinton. So, Clinton.

Leonard covers politics for KNIA/KRLS Radio in Knoxville and Pella, Iowa. He is an anthropologist and author of "Yellow Cab."

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