A Trump/Kasich two-man race for the nomination would, I think, trigger the End Times. And I’m an atheist. I’m not even supposed to believe in the End Times.
Are there any conservative voters left in this party?
Among Republican voters who say they’re definitely going to vote, Trump leads Kasich by … two points, 24/22. I know what the data nerds are going to say: “That’s an ARG poll and ARG has a C- rating for accuracy from FiveThirtyEight.” Fair enough. Discard it if you like but you can’t ignore the trend in New Hampshire. Go have a look at how Kasich’s numbers have developed lately in RCP’s poll average of the state. In November and December, he was polling steadily in single digits. Then, suddenly, none other than ARG pegged him at 13 percent in late December. Here’s how the polling has gone since then:
Trump, Rubio, Cruz, and Christie are all hovering at around the same level they were at in various polls before the ARG survey in December. The only one who’s moving is Kasich, who was at 7.0 percent in the RCP average on December 17th and has now nearly doubled his share to 13.3 percent. That’s good for second place in the state, as you can see, nearly two full points ahead of the Great Establishment Hope, Marco Rubio. In fact, this makes three polls in a row to have Kasich in second place, albeit tied in the previous two. Meanwhile, Rubio’s just 0.2 percent ahead of Cruz, who will surely catch a bounce in New Hampshire if he wins Iowa or finishes a strong second to Trump. (Chin up, Rubio fans. HuffPo’s poll tracker, which uses a different sample of surveys than RCP, still has him two points ahead of Kasich and Cruz.) The idea that Rubio’s going to surge late in NH as undecideds make up their minds isn’t far-fetched, especially if he beats expectations in Iowa. The idea that he’s going to do it while Kasich, a competitor in the “moderate” lane, is catching fire at the same time is … less plausible. If Trump and Cruz finish far ahead of the field in Iowa, it’s not out of the question that Rubio finishes fourth in New Hampshire behind the two of them and Kasich. He’ll solider on to Florida anyway, but if that happens I think he’s effectively done.
How’s Kasich doing it? Is it his standout debate performances, which have somehow managed to unite voters across the party spectrum in annoyance at him? Is it, as I half-joked above, the fact that there just aren’t many conservatives left in the party, creating room for both a fake conservative like Trump and a loud-and-proud moderate like Kasich in the same New Hampshire primary? I think the truth is more prosaic: Kasich is all-in on New Hampshire, is saturating the market with ads, and no one else is laying a glove on him. Trump and Cruz are killing each other, Cruz and Rubio are killing each other, Rubio and Christie are killing each other, and Bush … well, Bush isn’t really killing anyone but he’s trying to kill Trump and Rubio. And there’s John Kasich, without a scratch on him, racing into second and conceivably now within single digits of catching Trump for the lead. Rubio, Christie, and Bush have exactly three weeks to start blowing this guy up or he’s going to finish top three in the state and the race is quickly going to boil down to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and John Farking Kasich. Help us, Obi-Wan Cruz-nobi, you’re our only hope.