CBS poll: Trump 27, Carson 21, Cruz 9, Rubio 8

A leftover from this weekend in case you missed it. Not only is this the best poll Trump’s had in weeks, it’s the second straight national poll where he’s reached as high as 27 percent — something he failed to do in the last eight surveys conducted before PPP’s release last week. At a bare minimum, in other words, he’s stopped the small slide he’d been on lately. If anything, he might be back on an upswing. I wonder if Ted Cruz’s own polling shows the same thing, which might explain why he was a tiny bit more aggressive last week in pushing the idea that he’s the only anti-establishmentarian in the field who’s actually done something to stand up to Washington.

Is Trumpmania here to stay?

Trump continues to be viewed as the most electable candidate in a general election. Thirty-five percent say Trump has the best chance of winning in November 2016, followed by Ben Carson (18 percent).

Carson, Trump, Rubio, and Fiorina are all viewed more favorably than unfavorably among Republican primary voters. At 62 percent, favorable views of Ben Carson are the highest of this group, only seven percent are unfavorable. Fifty-three percent have a favorable view of Donald Trump, and 50 percent have a positive assessment of Marco Rubio. While Trump’s unfavorable rating is more than twice that of either Rubio or Fiorina, many don’t have an opinion of the latter two candidates…

Ben Carson is also seen as the candidate who most cares about people like them. Fifty-six percent think he cares a lot, more than twice as many as say the same for Trump or Fiorina.

But Donald Trump is seen as the strongest leader: Eighty-four percent think Trump has strong qualities of leadership, compared to 72 percent for Carson and 60 percent for Fiorina.

Of the three “outsider” candidates, Republican voters have more confidence in Trump than in Carson or Fiorina on two crucial issues, illegal immigration and economic decisions. And for all the hype over how his position on the border is fueling his support, his margin over Carson is greater on the economy. Probably that’s an artifact of Trump’s reputation as a businessman, but some of it may be due to perceptions that he’d be a protectionist as president. This WaPo piece from August on the ground in Flint, Michigan before a Trump rally vividly captures expectations among blue-collar Republicans that President Trump will bring jobs back to America from overseas. No other top-tier Republican is doing anything to seriously compete with him on that score.

This is a good poll for Ted Cruz too, just the second time since August that he’s touched as high as nine percent in a national survey, but it reiterates the fact that Cruz will have to outmaneuver not just Trump but Carson. It’s Carson, not Cruz, who’s “far ahead of any other candidate” when Trump voters are asked who their second choice for president is. (CBS doesn’t provide a number.) This isn’t the first poll to show Carson picking up the lion’s share of Trump’s voters if he were to drop out, either. The silver lining for Cruz fans in that is the fact that Trump voters are obviously willing to move towards a solid conservative like Carson if their first choice is unavailable. Some poll-watchers have questioned whether Trump’s coalition, which includes plenty of moderates, would be willing to consider a righty as their fallback option. The answer clearly is yes. The problem for Cruz is that those voters may demand a true Washington outsider as an alternative to Trump, which Cruz, for all of his Beltway-bashing red meat, is not. Somehow he needs both Trump and Carson to fade to clear a path for him — and Carson’s held a surprisingly steady second place at 18-20 percent behind Trump for around two months now.

As for Rubio, this is tied for his worst number in a national poll since the second GOP debate. Contrary to what Slate would have you believe, though, there is some Rubio momentum in the race overall — not a ton, but a meaningful amount. Go back and compare his numbers to Jeb Bush’s in various national polls since September 23rd, a week after the second debate. Before then, Rubio reliably trailed Jeb, sometimes narrowly, sometimes by six points or more. Since then, he’s led Bush in every national poll conducted. It’s true that he’s not competitive with Trump yet, but he doesn’t really need to be. He needs to outpoll Jeb, consistently enough that some of Bush’s donors start to waver and Rubio passes him in the contest to become the great establishment hope. Cruz is the better fundraiser so far, but Rubio stands to hit the jackpot if and when Jeb drops out — and unlike Cruz, Rubio doesn’t have Carson ahead of him in his lane of the primary.

Exit question: It sure does seem shady that Marco Rubio, Trump’s new nemesis, has gone from talking about “sunlight” in campaign finance to having a nonprofit with secret donors bankrolling ads on his behalf in the early states. How come Trump, who’s been noting for months how the professional pols in the race are all bought and sold by rich contributors, isn’t hammering him on that?