February 16, 2016
Remember when Donald Trump blamed 9/11 on George W. Bush and said he lied about WMDs? Remember when everyone said it would harm him to do this? South Carolina is a military-friendly state after all, and supposedly the Bush family is venerated there.
Ted Cruz has spent every waking minute for the past 48 hours explaining how Trump will appoint a liberal judge to replace the late Antonin Scalia, ending any protection for the Second Amendment.
South Carolinians have seen non-stop footage of Trump saying he’s fine with partial-birth abortions and very pro-choice. Jeb Bush slams him at every opportunity. If nothing else, it dominates the clips of Jeb.
Prior to the debate, a poll from the South Carolina House Republican Caucus had Trump at 35%. Then all the fuss. New post-debate poll from same source. Trump is at 33%. Perhaps it begins to sink in eventually, but a freefall is not apparent.
PPP took a poll too. This was taken Sunday/Monday (the SCHRC poll was Sunday only). Trump is at 35%. As a point of reference, PPP last surveyed the Palmetto State in early November and found The Donald at 25%.
These are all ways of saying Trump looks safe. Beyond his numbers mostly holding up, no other candidate is consolidating support in a way that would get one of them high enough to scare him.
About the others. Prior to the debate, Ted Cruz was ahead of Marco Rubio in 3 of 4 polls. They are tied in the two post-debate surveys, 18/18 and 14/14. Rubio got good grades for his debate, but his numbers aren’t much higher yet.
Cruz is not benefiting from mixing things up with Trump. His first three polls out were 20% or higher, the last three are between 12 and 18 percent. A final result that starts with 1 is going to harm Ted. Some undecided voters are kicking around and we know he’ll get his voters out, but this is not the trend line he’s looking for.
Ben Carson is up slightly after the debate. He averaged 4.8% before, 6.5% after. Not a huge move, not enough to make him viable down the road, but another roadblock for Cruz. All of this is a line of defense for Trump in case his support dips into the mid-high twenties.
George W. Bush showed up in North Charleston on Monday to stump for his brother. Not a moment too soon. John Kasich is now fractionally ahead of Jeb in the Real Clear Politics average. He picked up one point against him in the updated SCHRC poll and leads him by 3 with PPP.
There’s still a wide range of outcomes for the two governors. Each have a poll where they tie Carson for fifth. Kasich has a poll where he’s narrowly in 2nd place. Jeb has a poll where he’s one point away from a 2nd place tie.
Finishing at or near the top of the non-Trump tier would help either. Finishing behind Carson is a problem. Both outcomes are possible. Expectations are higher for Jeb, so you can look at this as Bush having a chance for a wipeout, Kasich a possibility to outperform again.
We’ll check back in soon, but for now, the debate mildly helped Rubio, Kasich, and Carson, did nothing for Jeb or Cruz and appears to have left The Donald mostly unscathed.