Jeb Bush? Sixth place in his all-in must-win early state. And there’s a serious chance, if Fiorina and Christie have a good night at the fourth debate next week, that he’ll be eighth before too much longer.
The most striking thing here is how little everyone has changed since Monmouth’s last poll of the state in September — except Rubio. How much of his jump came gradually over the last two months, I wonder, and how much came suddenly this past weekend due to his performance last Wednesday night?
Nobody’s lost more than two points since the last poll and only Rubio and Chris Christie have gained more than two, which suggests it’s not so much that Rubio is cannibalizing other top-tier candidates’ support as winning over undecideds and voters who, until recently, were supporting marginal candidates like Bobby Jindal. Rubio’s favorable rating is now up to 62/19, almost equal with Ben Carson’s rating of 64/19; back in September, Carson was at 73/10 and Rubio was at 50/26. (Ted Cruz’s favorable rating in September was nearly identical to Rubio’s at 50/28 but he’s since dipped to 46/32. Then again, neither Cruz nor Carson count moderate northeastern Republicans as their base.) As for Christie, compare the trend in his favorables to the trend in Jeb Bush’s. Remember, apart from Trump in the very early going, no candidate was less popular among Republicans than Christie was. And now:
In July, Bush’s net favorables were +10 whereas Christie’s were +2. Two months and three debates (and plenty of Bush Super PAC advertising) later, it’s Bush’s net favorable rating that’s dropped to +2 while Christie’s has soared to +22. There are too many strong candidates in Christie’s lane to think he’s got a shot to win in New Hampshire, but it’s real easy to see how he might sail past Jeb. And for all the ink spilled lately on what a blow Rubio’s decision to run this year was to Bush, you’re seeing here for the first time how much of a blow it might have been to Christie too. Without Rubio in the race, Bush donors who are jittery about Trump would be looking hard at Christie as a centrist alternative to Trump who plays well with the donor class and performs well on the stump. Rubio might be as much of a Christie-killer as he is a Bush-killer.
One other important footnote here per Monmouth: When you combine everyone’s first and second choice, this is a tight race in which just eight points separate the frontrunner from third place. Trump stands at 35 percent, Carson at 31, and Rubio at 27 — and that’s among an electorate in which only 20 percent say they’re completely decided on who to vote for. Barring something unusual happening over the next two months, like the GOP catching Christiemania or Jeb Bush discovering a shred of charisma on the stump, it seems likely that Trump and Rubio are going to end up in the top three in New Hampshire and either Carson or Cruz (whoever wins Iowa) will take the third slot.