February 18, 2016
Lots of polls from lots of places lately, but not Nevada. The new CNN/ORC poll is the only reading on the GOP side in 2016. Two-thirds of the survey was taken prior to the most recent Republican debate.
In South Carolina, there’s no real evidence Donald Trump’s attacks against George W. Bush on 9/11 and WMDs has moved the needle. The Donald is still consistently in the mid-30s, with a double-digit lead. Depending on the poll, Jeb Bush is second or third tier.
Nationally, there’s conflicting information. A NBC/WSJ poll has Trump trailing Ted Cruz, 28/26. Meanwhile Quinnipiac has Trump leading Cruz and Marco Rubio 39/18/19. The NBC/WSJ poll was taken entirely after the debate, Quinnipiac mostly before.So Trump might not remain as strong as he looked when CNN surveyed Nevada. In a minute, I’ll show you how you can turn his 45% poll position into a possible caucus day loss. Wouldn’t bet on it, but there is a reasonable series of adjustments to make.
That won’t help Jeb any. CNN has him at one percent in Nevada. One. Uno. 1%. It’s not the best state for him. John Kasich isn’t exactly strong there, weighing in at 5%, but in an October CNN poll, Jeb was at 6% and Kasich 1%. Not a good trend.
Back then, Marco Rubio was at 7%, basically even with Bush. Now he’s at 19%. Cruz moved from 4% to 17%. Jeb is at 1%. Had to type it again. He’s not suffering from money or name recognition issues. Several prominent Nevada establishment politicians have endorsed him.
It’s an outsider year, but 1%? Don’t look for a big post-debate effect. He’s at 4% in that Qunnipiac national poll, 4% with NBC/WSJ. If a governor got a boost, it was Kasich, moving from 6% in the older Quinnipiac survey to 11% with NBC/WSJ.
Remember, caucuses favor candidates with very inspired supporters. It’s hard to underperform 1%, but if this is an accurate reading, you would actually assume he would.
Kasich shouldn’t expect a great result. His trend line is positive, but Nevada is a closed caucus. He doesn’t have the ability to benefit from Independent or Democratic voters. In Iowa, you can change your registration on caucus day.
In Nevada, Republicans are only eligible if registered as such 10 days ahead. Most voters who took the trouble to do so early were likely Trump voters. As you’ll see below, even The Donald shouldn’t count on a big showing.
Ben Carson is at 7%. Assuming he continues forward from South Carolina, he’s likely to retain his support. He slightly outperformed his poll numbers in Iowa, despite whatever effect the Cruz campaign may have had on his supporters at individual caucus sites.
His numbers appear to have bottomed out nationally and in South Carolina, and he’s doing better in polls taken exclusively after the debate. Don’t expect a top-tier finish for him, but take the over if conditions are similar when they vote next Tuesday.
If Carson, Kasich, and Bush, combine for less than 20% (CNN has them at a combined 13%, and we can’t assume all three will make it to Nevada), that leaves 80% for Trump, Cruz, and Rubio to divide. You can argue this will wind up closer to 85%, but close enough.
Trump polled at 45%. If you believe there’s something to the NBC/WSJ poll (which for months consistently shows Trump with a little less support than the average national poll), back this down to 38-40%.
Turnout is likely a bigger problem for him in Nevada than Iowa. The states have similar population, but three times as many Iowans participated in caucuses in 2008 and 2012. Less than 10% of registered Republicans participated in the first two GOP caucuses in Nevada.
CNN overshot their estimate on Trump in Iowa. They’ve consistently given both Trump and Bernie Sanders better numbers than most other pollsters. In New Hampshire, they looked great, in Iowa, a bit optimistic.
If this is a caucus trend, with the shortage of Nevada experience being combined with the difficulty of getting non-Republicans and not-previously registered voters to participate, you can adjust one more time down to 30-32%.
That would give Cruz and Rubio 50% or so to divide. If they don’t divide it evenly, the victor can squeeze past Trump. That’s how the guy leading 45/19/17 in the poll winds up falling short.
Too early to estimate which senator has a better chance to dethrone The Donald. Rubio is two points ahead, which is effectively meaningless. Marco spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas and has a few residual local ties. He spent that stint in his youth as a Mormon, and has done plenty of outreach.
People associate Mormons with Utah, but they are a large percentage on Nevada Republicans, a big part in Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 caucus wins. As usual, Cruz has the support of many pastors and has done the most grass roots organizing.
They are tightly bunched in South Carolina. The result there will have an impact, with Nevada voting only three days later. In order to beat Trump, either Rubio or Cruz will need to have everything fall in place. If their advantages cancel each other out, they likely battle for second.
Both outperformed their final polls in Iowa. Rubio by more than Cruz, but Ted was in better position to grab the win.
We’ll check back on the Nevada GOP race at least one more time before they vote on 2/23. Given the data shortage, expect a combination of survey scraps and supposition.