DES MOINES — Eddie Money sang about two tickets to paradise. Might Iowa deliver more than three?
Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, predicted Monday that five candidates could be boosted by the caucuses in two weeks, citing the uniqueness of the 2016 race and the depth of the GOP field. The conventional wisdom is that there are usually just three tickets out of Iowa.
"There's still an opportunity for a surprise," Kaufmann said during an interview with the Washington Examiner Monday, "Now that may not be a surprise to jump into first. We may have a surprise in third that of the five out of the 12 that are the lowest in the polls right now — I believe one of them will make a pretty significant leap."
"I think there's five [tickets]," Kaufmann continued. "There's first place. I think there's obviously third. But if a third place jumps to second, there's a third one. If somebody in tenth place jumps to fifth, there's a fourth one … We could potentially have five tickets."
Kaufmann expects turnout to easily top the record of 120,000 caucus-goers four years ago, but acknowledges this isn't an exact science.
"There's just no way to predict [turnout]. We are treading on such unusual turf here in so many ways," Kaufmann said. "I think it's impossible for anybody to predict the turnout. The best I can say I would be amazed if we were under the 120,000 water mark, and I would not be surprised if we were at 150,000 or more. It just all depends."
"We have to prepare as if there's going to be an avalanche, because if we don't there will be one," Kaufmann said laughing. "But that's the real question that everyone is grappling at. I've done three asks for donors today … Every single one of them asked [about] turnout — is Trump going to get his people there? And to everyone I say we're preparing as if the answer is a yes. We just don't know."
Having taken over the reigns of the state party in 2014, Kaufmann knows the pressure is on the party to perform on caucus night. In 2012, Mitt Romney was erroneously declared the victor on caucus night but Rick Santorum officially won two weeks later. Kaufmann knows correcting such problems is a key to protecting Iowa's first-in-the-nation status.
"I always feel pressure. I always feel pressure that we have to prove ourselves," he said when asked about comments from Republcian National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who said Iowa and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status may be reexamined after 2016. Kaufmann, who said there's no added pressure due to Priebus' comments, said it simply comes with the territory.
"What Chairman Priebus said, we already knew," Kaufmann said. "Every four years, there's some state that puts in a resolution to strip our first-state status and every four years we have to make the case again. He just basically stated what we know is happening."
Four Republicans are set to campaign in the state on Tuesday, with front-runner Donald Trump set to hold three events throughout the day.