February 20, 2016
The day of reckoning for the Jeb! campaign is upon us. Donald Trump’s chance to win his second straight primary is here. The Cruz-Rubio duel begins in full. Ben Carson fights to stick around. John Kasich tries to turn hugs into votes. Who succeeds, who fails?Donald Trump 27.3%
I was very tempted to pick Rubio to win. He’s closing strong. In Iowa, Marco took Trump voters at the buzzer. In New Hampshire, the reverse happened. This is closer to the Iowa scenario.
Rubio outperformed his final Real Clear Politics average by just over 6 points. Trump fell short by just over 4 points. I applied a slightly larger adjustment here. The Donald is still ahead.
Cruz trailed Trump by 5 and won by 4. He’d need to top that 9 point swing this time just to get close. Iowa is a closed caucus (though you can register or change parties day of.). This is an open primary. That favors Trump.
So does both Rubio and Cruz having the ability to have a good day. They compete with each other at least as much as they do with Trump. Neither have weakened enough for one to take 65-75% of the voters weighing the two.
That leaves Trump hanging on for a win. I suspect if I’m wrong it’s because I guessed low on his number, not high.
Marco Rubio 24.1%
This is the type of candidate who should win South Carolina. He gets to bring Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy everywhere with him. He’s mostly recovered from the debate snafu back in New Hampshire.
While he bounced back well, it cost him vital momentum and a second or at worst, third place finish. Absent that, I think he wins today. Rubio would have finished ahead of Cruz in the Granite State. A few extra voters would have chosen him over Ted for electability/momentum reasons.
Well he gets to live to fight another day. That counts for something, and I’m sure he can put a good spin on a strong second, should this estimate represent reality.
Ted Cruz 21.5%
This gives Ted full credit for turning out his voters and pulling a few late deciders. It’s a full three points north of his RCP average, and higher than he finished in all but 1 of the 24 polls taken between New Hampshire and yesterday.
As much as he seems suited for the Palmetto State, establishment-friendly candidates normally win out here. The exception was Newt Gingrich in 2012, but that’s more of an argument for Trump.
Rubio survived a worse result last week. This wouldn’t chase Ted from the race. At some point, The Donald will have Marco in his crosshairs too.
John Kasich 10.5%
I might have him a little high here, if not with the percentage, than with the position. If you want the best statistical average of what’s likely to happen, FiveThirtyEight does a great job.
We’re trying to pick a single scenario and match the numbers. Data during primary season is inconsistent enough that this approach is actually competitive, and more fun. In November, I’ll run with 98% of what they come up with.
For the past couple days, it’s become apparent that Jeb Bush isn’t going to do well enough to truly contend for a top tier position. That should pull a percentage of his support away. More of it will go to Rubio, but Kasich may benefit ever so slightly.
Of greater importance, I’m betting on pollsters underestimating by a small margin how many Democrats and Independents will opt in to the GOP primary as a reaction to the leftward lean of Clinton and Sanders and the volume of coverage the past several days as Republicans have blitzed the state.
Kasich got his message out. Though his numbers plateaued over the past few days and he doesn’t seem like a threat to challenge for third, I think it keeps him just ahead of Jeb and Carson.
Ben Carson 8.6%
When Cruz and Trump attack each other, Carson benefits. His polling progress is fairly consistent and he wound up in this range in several polls taken entirely after the debate. By keeping to a respectable number, he’s holding down the final results for both Trump and Cruz.
Assuming this number is approximately correct, the Rubio campaign should bribe him to stay in the race.
Jeb Bush 8.1%
He undershot his final poll average by 1.3 points in Iowa, 0.5 points in New Hampshire. Add on another point or point and a half for general gloom and loss of hope in his candidacy and you wind up here.
There are just enough Bush loyalists to keep this number from getting worse, but with the exception of family members and Lindsey Graham, most other establishment figures are indicating it’s about time to abandon ship.
Let’s see how close I got.