February 6, 2016
Over the past couple/few days, we’ve covered where the individual GOP candidates stand in New Hampshire. More tracking polls hit this morning. None show any dramatic changes in the lineup.
If the primary were today and the consensus numbers are accurate, Donald Trump would win. Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz would have a solid shot at second. Jeb Bush would find himself ticketed for fifth with a slight chance of outperforming, and Chris Christie would battle Carly Fiorina for sixth.
Of course, there’s the small matter of the debate in between. Beyond that, there are plenty of undecided Granite Staters. It’s time to take a look at the size of various voter pools the candidates will attempt to tap by Tuesday.
While it’s hard to imagine a voter choosing between Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, there are plenty of overlapping possibilities. Many of them involve Marco Rubio.
NOTE: These groups will total well more than 100%. It’s an attempt to show variability and scenarios, not predict the results.
Looking for a Conservative: 27 to 38 percent
The RCP average has Cruz, Rubio and Carly Fiorina combining for 32%. Models that assume higher involvement from Independents give them a smaller share, those who figure opposite, give them more.
We’re used to the insider/outsider, establishment/insurgent approach to looking at the contest, but you can also distribute the candidates by ideology. These three are the most in line with what you might consider Reagan-style conservatism. Fiorina’s supporters really like Cruz and Rubio. That’s part of her problem. It’s mutual, but as long as the other two are perceived as more viable, there’s no reason for voters to move to her.
Despite Rubio’s momentum and Cruz’s Iowa victory, this vote share isn’t noticeably expanding. Some polls lean more to the semi-moderate governance types, some lean this way, but that’s more a matter of pollster than voter.
Semi-moderate governance: 24 to 32 percent
These are our governors; Kasich, Christie and Jeb. There just isn’t enough here for Bush to win New Hampshire. He doesn’t have a foot in any of the other groups and he’d need to completely monopolize this one and have it near the high end of the range to win.
RCP has them at 26%, so they’re currently closer to the bottom of this band than the top. Kasich will need lots of help from Independent voters to finish second.
Independents Day: 37 to 51 percent
Nobody thinks of Kasich and Trump as belonging to the same group. But both are more popular with Independents than Republicans. Each are dependent on how many of them turn out and whether they choose the Democrats or the GOP.
Some polls will show second choices on the GOP side. The problem is it only includes same party candidates. With many voters still deciding between primaries, we don’t have any surveys to help us see if a Trump voter is also considering Sanders, if a Kasich voter is thinking about Clinton.
At a combined RCP average of 43%, Trump and Kasich are going to impact everyone else, including the Democrats.
Populists 27 to 35 percent
This is Trump on his own and a reminder he still controls as much space as Cruz/Rubio/Fiorina as well as easily matching Kasich/Bush/Christie. It may also explain why he is hanging in despite the Iowa loss and spending less time on the ground in New Hampshire. His RCP average is 31%.
With Cruz focusing on consistent conservatism and continuing to work scripture into his stump speech, the only other home for a secular populist is Bernie. As appealing as he is to some, socialism isn’t for everyone. Many Trump supporters really don’t have a good alternative.
Social Conservatives: 11 to 19 percent
Dorothy, we aren’t in Iowa anymore. Only a little over 20% of Granite Staters self-describe as evangelicals. We already know not all evangelicals choose candidates based on social issues and familiarity with the word. Cruz and Carson combine for 15% in the RCP average.
With a relatively small pool, Cruz can’t afford any resurgence by Carson or to have some supporters decide Rubio is close enough to what they are looking for.
Establishment Certified: 38 to 46 percent
Rubio + the Govs. This is why pundits are starting to make noise about a Rubio surprise victory. It’s a big enough pool for him to surpass Trump, even assuming The Donald holds most of his support. The RCP average is just over 40%.
Some of these voters are more strongly conservative, others more moderate. None are interested in Trump. Rubio is popular down the line with the majority of these voters. The same is not true for the governors. This is why Kasich needs the Independents and Jeb needs a miracle.
Another way to look at it is governor supporters could choose Rubio and Cruz supporters could choose Rubio, but a Cruz fan won’t vote for a governor and vice versa.
As we enter the debate, Trump has the strongest and largest foundation, Rubio and Kasich the largest variability. In particular, Marco is acceptable to the widest range of voters, but has a smaller percentage of committed voters than his polling peers.
With Rubio’s results normally positively influenced by debates, a strong performance and he’s a contender to at least really scare Trump. A bad night and he could wind up fifth.