February 19, 2016
Almost at the finish line. Unlike Nevada, the polls are coming fast and furious, with several released today. Some are new entries, others are tracking poll updates. In all, Real Clear Politics lists 24 separate surveys from 14 pollsters since New Hampshire voted.
Donald Trump led all 24 polls. John Kasich is ahead of his pre-New Hampshire numbers in all 24. Marco Rubio is making some amount of progress. So is Ben Carson at a lower level. Ted Cruz is all over the place. So is Jeb Bush. They aren’t going forwards or backwards, but opinions of where they stand are varied.
If you want to follow the RCP average, the standings are as follows:Trump 31.8%
Using this, Trump would win, Cruz and Rubio are a distinct second tier. Bush and Kasich are third tier, with a risk of falling behind Carson. It’s a reasonably clear picture. Also no fun. If you want to play contrarian, are there any trends to latch on to?
Question 1: Can Trump Lose?
To the tracking polls Batman! (these read oldest to newest)
SC GOP: 35, 33, 34, 35, 34, 34
ARG: 35, 33, 33, 34
Emerson: 33, 36
Augusta Chron.: 36, 27
He’s probably safe as long as he gets at least 30% of the vote. It’s hard to imagine Rubio or Cruz separating enough from the other to wind up at 31 or 32 percent. There were four polls taken entirely after the debate, released in the last 24-36 hours, by pollsters who are not running tracking surveys.
Harper (29), NBC/WSJ (28), Fox News (32), Clemson (28). Have to still favor Trump, but there’s a scenario where someone slides past him.
Question 2: Cruz or Rubio?
One of these guys is more likely to finish ahead in the intramural competition. That same individual is the biggest threat to Trump. Time to look at the same surveys we did for The Donald. The only difference is we’ll show a +/- number.
The number/integer refers to Ted’s margin over or under Marco. As always, oldest on the left, newest on the right.
SC GOP: +3, Even, +1, Even, +2, +1
ARG: -2, -2, -7, -9
Emerson: +1, -1
Augusta Chron.: +5, -5
Unmistakably positive trend for Marco. Let’s look at those 4 post-debate surveys:
Harper (-2), NBC/WSJ (+8), Fox News (+4), Clemson (+4)
On the other hand, these polls like Cruz quite a bit better. Remember, Rubio is the highest variability candidate. He has the widest and shallowest support. When he gets Marcomentum watch out. If he stumbles, watch out the other way.
The end result is inconclusive. If you combine the polls showing Cruz noticeably ahead with his strong ground game, he’s the clear favorite. If you buy the pro-Marco polls, the momentum case puts him ahead and Trump possibly at risk. Your call.
Question 3: Jeb or Kasich?
We’ll approach this the same way as Cruz/Rubio. The number/integer is Jeb’s margin against Kasich. Left to right from oldest to newest.
SC GOP: +4, +3, +7, +5, +5, +4
ARG: -5, -5, -7, -5
Emerson: Even, Even
Augusta Chron.: +2, +4
No momentum for one against the other. It’s a question of which pollsters you believe in. ARG was bullish on Kasich in New Hampshire, figuring he would pull plenty of non-Republicans. They are thinking the same here. If they’re correct again, we’ll have to take this very seriously going forward.
Harper (+1), NBC/WSJ (+4), Fox News (+3), Clemson (+1). The entire Kasich case rests on ARG. No other post-debate pollster has him ahead of Jeb. In New Hampshire, Kasich was ahead of Jeb in the Real Clear Politics average and he had a little momentum.
If voters abandon Bush at the last minute to throw in with Rubio, it might help Marco pass Cruz (or even Trump), but that’s not necessarily favorable to Kasich, except by comparison to a poor result for Bush.
Question 4: Can Carson Reach Double Digits?
He did not hit 10% in a single one of the 24 polls. His RCP average is 6.9%. Whatever did or didn’t happen with the Cruz campaign, Carson beat the final average by 1.6 points in Iowa. In that instance, he didn’t have a positive trend line. If we can show one here, perhaps it’s possible.
SC GOP: 5, 6, 7, 6, 5, 5
ARG: 2, 3, 3, 4
Emerson: 5, 6
Augusta Chron.: 5, 8
Mostly the right direction. What about the post-debate polls?
Harper (8), NBC/WSJ (9), Fox News (9), Clemson (6)
These look promising. If he turns out his voters like he did in Iowa, 10% and/or a non-last place finish is very possible.
Our prediction piece is out in the morning, but this is a start.