Ted Cruz recently warned a group of Iowa pastors that a Donald Trump victory in the Iowa caucus could make the billionaire "unstoppable" in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Other observers, including Trump himself, have reached similar conclusions. At campaign appearances, Trump has predicted that if he wins Iowa, "we can run the table."
Donors and campaign operatives may still be waiting to see what happens on Monday night and assuming that Trump's support will plateau at some point. Republican strategist Ford O'Connell cautioned that could be a dangerous game to play.
"It's the perception game versus the delegate game," he said. Winning Iowa does not remotely make Trump unbeatable from a delegate perspective, but it does reinforce the narrative in the minds of many voters that he cannot be stopped.
"As long as he continues to rack up wins, that perception is going to hold."
O'Connell argued that candidates are just going about attacking Trump in the wrong way.
"He's a unique political animal where the traditional attacks just don't work," he said. Bush has questioned his lack of government experience and Cruz has gone after his conservative credentials, but his supporters do not care about those issues.
"What you have to do is, you have to poke a hole in the balloon that is Trump's big selling point besides his bravado, which is that he's going to fight for the little guy."
Cruz's attacks on Trump's positions on issues like eminent domain and H1B visas touch on that theme, but he uses language that the average voter will not understand. To be effective, O'Connell said, the criticisms need to be clearer and simpler: "Trump believes that the government can take your property, no questions asked."
O'Connell noted that Trump's mastery of the media might enable him to transform into an appealing general election candidate, though.
"It would not surprise me at all if he were able to completely change his pitch," he said, presenting himself as a more electable candidate than Clinton.
"Nothing's gone according to script, so I don't see any reason why the general election wouldn't either."