Lotta hype for this poll among Trumpers today. I don’t know what to tell you, Rubio fans. The best spin is the obvious spin: A million things are going to happen between now and March 15th, when Florida votes, so it’s not even worth worrying about it. What Florida does will be shaped by what Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and a bunch of southern states do in the preceding six weeks. His strategy now is “3-2-1,” i.e. finishing no worse than third in Iowa, no worse than second in New Hampshire, and then winning South Carolina outright. If he’s as weak in those states as he is in this poll, he’ll be effectively done by the “SEC primary” on March 1st. before Floridians even really start paying attention. Fretting about Florida now is like an NFL team fretting about its playoff chances in week three.
But let’s be honest. These are not the numbers you would have guessed three months ago if I’d asked you to predict the state of the race in Florida on January 20, 2016.
Florida’s Republican primary would be a Donald Trump blowout if held today, according to a Jan. 15-18 poll by Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative. Trump leads with a whopping 47.6 percent support among likely Republicans, followed by 16.3 percent for Ted Cruz, 11.1 percent for Marco Rubio, 9.5 percent for Jeb Bush, and 3.3 percent for Ben Carson, who in November had 14.5 percent support in the same poll. Since that poll, Cruz gained six points and Rubio lost seven.
“At this point, Donald Trump is simply crushing the opposition in the Florida Republican primary,” said Kevin Wagner, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative. “Not only has he increased his lead, Mr. Trump’s favorability ratings among Republicans are now ahead of his competitors by a substantial margin.”
Per the crosstabs, Trump’s favorable rating across the total electorate — not just Republicans but everyone — is actually slightly better than Rubio’s, Bush’s, or Cruz’s. He’s at 42/51; the best the others can do is 37/52 for Rubio. Jeb does best head to head against Hillary, leading her by 3.5 points, but Trump is right behind him: He leads her 47.0 to 44.3. Rubio? He … trails by less than half a point. Gulp.
Actually, I can come up with a better spin than the one above. Have a peek at HuffPo’s collection of Florida polls and you’ll see that this one is an extreme outlier. A one-day poll taken there three days ago, with a much bigger sample, put Trump at 31 percent and Cruz not terribly far behind at 19. Those are the only two polls of the state this month, but never once did Trump approach 48 percent there last year even as he was dominating the field for months. His best showing until today was 37 percent in late October. In all likelihood, unless FAU is picking up a sudden stampede towards Trump down south two months before Floridians actually vote, this is a flawed result derived from a too-small sample of just 386 Republican likely voters. On the other hand, even in the more realistic one-day poll this week that had Trump at 31 percent, Rubio’s still stumbling along with 12, the same share as Jeb Bush. If any state should be high on Rubio because they know him well, it’s Florida. What gives?
Cruz is trying to finish off Rubio in New Hampshire with amnesty attacks, knowing that a poor finish there means Rubio’s effectively done. Check out how Team Marco is countering him below. What’s the key word in that ad? Exit question: Will Cruz’s knock on “New York values” hurt him in Florida? A socially conservative Republican should be worried about all the New York emigres there, no?
Update: Maybe I, er, spoke too soon about Kasichmentum.
CNN/WMUR New Hampshire poll:
Trump — 34
Cruz — 14
Bush — 10
Rubio — 10
Christie — 6
Kasich — 6
Paul — 6
Fiorina — 4
Carson — 3
Huckabee — 1
— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) January 20, 2016
Say, who’s that creeping into a tie for third with Marco Rubio?