Oh my: Final Emerson College poll shows Bush second, Rubio slipping to fourth place at 12%

Why care about a poll from Emerson College? Because, as you may remember, they were the pollster that predicted Iowa most accurately. In fact, of the dozens of polls taken in Iowa in the months before the caucuses, the only one to put Marco Rubio north of 20 percent was Emerson. They had him at 22 percent the day before the vote. He finished with 23 percent. Not bad.

Their final prediction for New Hampshire: Rubio at … 12 percent, the worst numbers he’s pulled in the last seven surveys of the state. Time for the media to break out its black bunting, just in case Jeb Bush(!) and Kasich kill Bambi tomorrow night.

With the New Hampshire primary happening tomorrow, a new Emerson College statewide survey shows Republican Donald Trump poised to win in the Granite State with 31% of likely GOP primary voters. The battle is on for second place, with the next four candidates separated by just 5 percentage points: Jeb Bush (16%), John Kasich (13%), Marco Rubio (12%) and Ted Cruz (11%). In the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders maintains a lead over Hillary Clinton, 54% to 42%…

Trump skidded from 37% on Thursday to 22% on Saturday. However, he surged to 33% on Sunday, following his GOP debate performance. Overall, Bush trended upward, from 12% on Thursday to 19% on Saturday and 21% on Sunday. His gain seemed to be at Rubio’s expense. Rubio fell from a high of 17% on Friday to single digits on Sunday. Bush and Kasich have the highest favorability ratings among likely GOP primary voters. Bush’s differential is +17 (55% favorable, 38% unfavorable). Kasich is +15 (52% favorable, 37% unfavorable), and Rubio’s margin is +10 (50% to 40%). Trump’s favorable/unfavorable numbers are nearly equal (49% to 46%). Among the top GOP contenders, only Cruz is in negative territory, with a -21 rating (35% favorable, 56% unfavorable).

Don’t despair yet, though, Rubio fans. Remember the numbers from the last Emerson College poll of New Hampshire, which I blogged on January 27th? That one had Jeb Bush at … 18 percent, the one and only poll taken in NH to have him above 14 since Trump entered the race last June. Rubio, meanwhile, stood at a paltry nine percent while Ted Cruz notched eight, unusually poor showings in both cases given that they’ve each been reliably scoring in double digits since then. In other words, if you believe Emerson’s data, Jeb Bush actually lost a few points of support since late January while Rubio and Cruz each gained three. Those trends would be lost on you if all you saw was the screaming headline about Jeb being in second. He’s been in second for two weeks now — at least according to Emerson.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for evidence that Rubio’s Mr. Roboto answer at the debate hurt him, the Friday through Sunday trendline here is all you need. Nor is it crazy to think that other polls are lowballing Jeb and that he stands a chance of a surprisingly strong finish tomorrow, maybe even to the point where he poses a threat to Rubio. My pal Karl flagged this intriguing bit of campaign news earlier this morning on Twitter:

Conservative Solutions is Rubio’s Super PAC. Suddenly, despite the hype about Kasich’s strength, they’re moving to attack Jeb Bush. Is that because Team Marco thinks Kasich’s support is solid and outside their “lane,” meaning that attacking him won’t move votes to Rubio? Or is it because their internal polling shows that there really is a Bush surge happening and they need to tamp it down before Bush catches some momentum? The worst possible outcome for Rubio in New Hampshire is to finish behind Jeb, and the further behind he is the more damaging the result will be. What hope does Rubio have in South Carolina if he ends up fighting there just to split the center-right vote with Bush?

Here’s Rubio debating himself on whether Obama knows what he’s doing.