In the national polls, Texas Senator Ted Cruz sits back around fourth place on average yet the campaign financial reports and ground game he’s constructing in Iowa are telling a different narrative. Scoring a big endorsement this week from influential Iowa Congressman Steve King, Cruz is quietly assembling a strong, organized coalition complete with staff on the ground and a formidable war chest.

Report from Politico:

He has more cash than any other Republican candidate. He is organized in every county in the first four voting states. And he has served up one strong debate performance after another.

Now, not three months from primary season, rivals concede they have begun to fear Ted Cruz has an increasingly clear path to the Republican nomination.

“Anybody who thinks differently,” said an operative with a rival 2016 campaign, “is lying to you.”

The 2016 field’s reluctantly bullish outlook on Cruz marks a dramatic about-face for Republicans weighing the divisive senator’s odds. For months, Cruz was considered a long shot at best — a hard-line conservative with a niche audience of angry evangelicals, mired in the middle of the polls and, anyway, overshadowed by Donald Trump. Allies of and operatives on campaigns as varied as Jeb Bush’s and Mike Huckabee’s dismissed the Texas senator’s ability to court enough supporters to defeat a more mainstream Republican.

No longer.

The same Republican rivals who relegated Cruz to a second tier in discussions this past summer now see this insurgent firebrand as the candidate who benefited most from Scott Walker’s exit and the one who stands to gain should Trump or Ben Carson decline. Indeed, Cruz is seen by most

The money matters, especially in the coming months when campaigns which are underfunded will fizzle out simply because they have no chance at competing without cash for advertising or paid staffers. At the end of third quarter on October 30, Cruz had the most cash on hand meaning he’ll be able to out-last candidates like Rand Paul who is currently struggling to bring in funds.

Cruz is banking heavily on Iowa, likely writing off New Hampshire, and then going all-in to South Carolina and the so-called “SEC Primary” of Southern States in March of next year. If he can stun with a win in Iowa, he’ll have solid momentum heading into the southern states. The first of which is South Carolina, a state with a Republican voter base that resembles Iowa. He can afford to lose New Hampshire, as George W. Bush did back in 2000, so long as he can rebound across the South

This all assumes two things which have yet to happen: 1) Donald Trump starts losing ground in Iowa and 2) Ben Carson also loses ground in Iowa. If enough Carson and Trump voters defect to Cruz, as opposed to Rubio, Cruz could carry the day with around 25-30% of the vote in a four or five-way split. Whether these chips will fall into place for Cruz remains to be seen.