February 27, 2016
In our last installment, we took a look at where Donald Trump is virtually guaranteed to win on Super Tuesday. Now a peek at where he’s clearly leading, but it’s technically to somewhat possible for another candidate to catch up.
If you add these four to the previous three, The Donald is a clear favorite in at least 7 states, with a plenty decent chance to win some/all of the others. People are not overestimating the strength of his position, but Marco Rubio can make this closer than people are expecting if everything breaks in his favor.
Better to not need all the breaks though. From strongest to weakest Trump states:
If you look at the Real Clear Politics average, this appears no different from Georgia:
Rubio is ahead of Cruz, furthering his case as the Trump alternative, but is nowhere in sight of The Donald. More importantly, you need to total the two senators to reach Trump’s support.
It looks like this view is highly aided by a bit of an outlier. Roanoke College polled from 2/16 to 2/24 and found Trump 38, Cruz, 15, Rubio 13. I’m not buying this. Rubio pulled 22% in South Carolina, and is in that range across the board in the SEC March 1 states.
Marco landed at 22% and 27% in the other two Virginia surveys. He finished between those numbers in Iowa and Nevada. So toss the Roanoke poll out. Two others to look at.
Monmouth polled from 2/22 to 2/24, post-South Carolina, during Nevada, before the debate. They found unmistakably good news for Trump.
If this is the correct view, it’s almost impossible for Rubio to close the gap. Kasich and Carson were each at 7%. You’d figure if Rubio closes strong he’d still lose by 7 to 10 points. This is why Trump is the clear favorite.
However, an earlier (2/3-2/14) poll from Christopher Newport University shows another story.
Much closer. Plenty of ways for Rubio to catch up. A full 17% of respondents were either undecided or supported someone now out of the race. The timing matters too. Rubio’s debate disaster was on 2/6, right in the middle of the polling cycle.
In surveys taken elsewhere, his worst numbers of the past 6 weeks were in the second two-thirds of this polling period. So, he’s in range during a time period which includes his low point.
If you adjust this one out, Rubio should actually have a slim lead or find himself effectively tied. Going back to the pro-Trump Monmouth result, Only 36% of voters said they were definitely locked in, with another 40% having a strong preference.
As usual, Trump voters were the most sold, but in this case that means 53% definite, as opposed to the usual 70% or so. Rubio has closed well in previous contests and Trump has fairly high negatives in Virginia, indicating Marco may benefit from their new war.
You still need to favor Trump, but unlike the previous batch of states, you can make a Marco victory scenario plausible. Virginia has plenty of the upper income suburban voters he does best with, so the demographics work too.
We have one survey. One. Taken between 2/3 and 2/17 by Castleton Polling Institute for VPR. Trump leads by a sizable margin. He’s at 32%, with Rubio at 17% and Kasich at 10%.
Normally, any time Trump has more support than his next two pursuers combined, you can queue up the victory music. He won New Hampshire easily, has a huge lead in Massachusetts, was just endorsed by the governor of Maine, and hails from New York.
Any state in any geographical proximity is part of Trumplandia. If you told me he’s doing well in Quebec too, I wouldn’t argue. There’s no evidence he won’t win. The most likely scenario has Rubio and Kasich fighting for second, each doing well enough to ensure neither challenges.
On the other hand, there’s also reason for uncertainty. Trump polled at 32% not 42%. There are ways to wind up in the low 30s and finish second, ways to lose a couple points and wind up in the high 20s.
We don’t know how strong Kasich is. Half of the poll was taken before New Hampshire voted, before he took return trips to New England for Super Tuesday.
We don’t know how strong Rubio is. A full 3/4 of the polling cycle was during Marco’s post-debate, post-5th place New Hampshire finish slump. Does a stronger Rubio cancel out a stronger Kasich?
A full 15% of respondents were undecided or picked an unavailable candidate. Another 10% chose Chris Christie or Jeb Bush before they dropped out. If you held a weapon to my temple, I’d tell you Trump will win by 10 to 15 points.
But I can also connect the dots to make Rubio or Kasich win. If Trump prevails, the second place battle is interesting too. They could wind up virtually tied, or separated by 10 to 15 points themselves.
Welcome back to the Land of Limited Data. We have several polls from 2015 and a couple from 2014, but only one taken in early January by Ivan Moore Research for Alaska Dispatch News since early August.
Trump led Cruz 28/24, with Rubio well back at 7%. This looks like a Trump victory. He’s further ahead of Cruz now than he was almost two months ago. If he had an advantage then, he should have a safe edge now.
While voters have abandoned Ted for Marco throughout the South, often in places Cruz considered part of his firewall, Alaskans haven’t liked Rubio in some time. In the four surveys taken in 2015, Cruz averaged at least double his support.
Rand Paul and Christie ran ahead of their national numbers here when they were seen as viable. That probably doesn’t translate well to Rubio either. If someone beats Trump, it’s more likely Cruz, and he’s not trending that way.
The reason this isn’t a definite Trump win is limited data combined with a caucus process in an enormous state in the middle of an Alaskan winter. We know the vaunted Cruz ground game has limitations, but he was 4 points behind Trump not 20.
If you would have a polling gap of 10 to 12 now, is it insane to think the unique conditions could close the gap on the ground? It’s not like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC have reporters on the ground looking into things.
Advantage Trump, but if Ted is going to pull as surprise somewhere, it might be here. Sarah Palin is nowhere near as popular at home as she was almost a decade ago. Her Trump endorsement could wind up helping Cruz. Pure supposition of course.
Two polls taken in February. One early in the month, one after South Carolina. Trump leads in both, improving from +5 in the first one to +9 in the second. He’s around 30%, just the wrong side of the safe line.
The two polls were taken by different organizations, but Rubio was at 21% in both. Cruz dropped from 25% to 20%. If you want to put a positive spin on things, the Sooner Poll, which took the early February survey, historically likes the senators more than the poll taken for The Oklahoman.
If you adjust for the normal spread between the two, Cruz may have remained steady, while Rubio actually improved. Each poll has about 20% undecided or supporting now vanished options.
Again, Trump is ahead in both polls. In the more recent one, he had his normal across-the-board edge, leading in each congressional district. Cruz and Rubio are more evenly matched than many other Super Tuesday states.
While the two have more than enough combined support to throw someone ahead of Trump, there’s the matter of one getting a much larger share. Cruz is from a bordering state and Rubio has momentum. If that cancels out, Trump wins.
Neither Carson nor Kasich have a large base of support. The top three will wind up around 90% of the vote. That’s how Trump could lose. If Rubio can grab half of the undecided voters while pulling just a few people from Trump or Cruz, he’s actually got this one.
With all of the data pointing to a Trump advantage, this doesn’t belong in the toss-up bucket, but it’s an easier path than the other states in this group. Another candidate just needs to do well with undecideds. It’s not necessary to throw out a poll, or plan on major defections.
Check back in the morning for the final piece of the puzzle. The states where practically anything can happen on Tuesday, either because the data shows options, or there isn’t any data.