May 2, 2016
What a difference a few days and a few polls make. As recently as Friday, I thought this was a toss-up. Too close to call became Ted Cruz on life support very quickly. Three polls surfaced between our last conversation and this one. One had Cruz leading by 16 points. Leading is good, right? Not always.
The survey from IPFW/Downs Center was taken from April 13 to 27. So half before the New York results, the other half between New York and the April 26 apocalypse. On Friday, we had three polls from before the 26th and one after. The most recent one was the most favorable to Cruz, so it didn’t seem that he was losing any ground.
If you see -6, -8, -5, -2 going from oldest to newest, that’s neutral at worst. Trump’s support was 37, 41, 40, 37. Again, it appeared any momentum had stopped/slowed. You could argue Hoosiers were thinking twice about handing Trump the nomination. That was then.
Right after posting, we got that Cruz +16 result. It was actually older than the other surveys, having begun a week sooner than any and ending just a couple/few days after the rest. We then got two other post-April 26 results, one from ARG, the other from Marist on behalf of NBC/Wall Street Journal.
ARG is the official pollster of the Kasich campaign. While technically completely unaffiliated, he ALWAYS gets his best number from them. You can consider their results a great way to determine a point the governor won’t actually reach. Deduct a few to several points from them and you have his result.
NBC/WSJ/Marist has consistently understated Trump’s support. Over the past couple weeks, the house effect has narrowed, but where ARG provides a maximum for Kasich, these guys are normally a floor (or more accurately basement) for Trump.
They have Trump at 49%. That’s very bad for Cruz. On Friday I figured we’d see some movement over the weekend, but wasn’t sure if we’d get Ted reaching 40, or Trump 43 to 45 first. Since the pre-New York Cruz closed well, if he could hit 40, pulling into a tie with Trump, his ground game would theoretically put him over the top. Reaching 40 would show the old Cruz was back.
On the other hand, since Trump normally holds his poll support (if not always converting many undecideds), showing up in the mid-40s would indicate he had the voters he needed. Kasich is guaranteed to stay in double digits (especially with plenty of early voting), so there isn’t room for two candidates with 45%.
Not only do we have Trump flirting with 50%, but the addition of the older poll now shows a clear path of erosion for Cruz. His numbers are now +16, -6, -8, -5, -2, -9, -15. These numbers square with what we’ve heard about internal polling results. It’s dangerous to read too much into that, but we don’t even have hints from the Cruz camp that it’s better than it looks.
The ARG poll is a problem too. They show Trump 41, Cruz 32, Kasich 21. If you look at it in isolation, you could reach the conclusion that the third wheel was taking crucial votes from Cruz. They do combine for more than Trump after all. Take 8 points from Kasich, add in some undecideds, and all of a sudden Cruz is narrowly leading.
But the NBC/WSJ poll indicates that’s not where those Kasich votes go. They show 49/34/13. The governor’s supporters go to Trump, not Ted. A Cruz victory path would have him taking the majority of undecideds, having a few Kasich voters move to him, while those who would move to Trump stay where they are.
Instead, it appears Trump is holding his own on late deciding voters, and Kasich/Trump voters are more likely to abandon the governor than the Kasich/Cruz group. Since Cruz needs almost every variable to fall in place for him, he loses even if this is only partially true. Any bandwagon effect would now favor Trump.
Maybe the Carly choice didn’t do enough. Maybe it was Cruz referring to a “basketball ring” while coaching legend Bobby Knight was endorsing Trump at multiple events. Maybe it was the protestors in California. Maybe Indiana wants to end the process. Who knows?
Anyway, barring additional data to the contrary, Trump is on a victory path in Indiana. Cruz will always know he did everything he could in the final week, but the numbers are indicating this is the final day of suspense in the GOP race.