Republicans started off 2015 wondering how Hillary Clinton could possibly win a national election. As 2015 closes, they may be finding out. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Hillary starts off 2016 with a ten-point advantage over the GOP’s frontrunner, Donald Trump, but loses to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson:

Hillary Clinton would defeat Ted Cruz and trounce Donald Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup, but she would lose to Marco Rubio or Ben Carson, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds.

Clinton, who leads the Democratic primary field by nearly 20 points, would have a strong advantage over Trump with independent voters but would be bested by the three other Republicans with the important swing group. …

Against Trump, the Democratic front-runner would win 50 percent to 40 percent. Among independents, she would capture 43 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Trump. Among Hispanics, Clinton would get 69 percent of the vote, compared to just 24 percent for Trump.

And against Cruz, who has surged in recent polls in the important early state of Iowa, Clinton would win with 48 percent to Cruz’s 45 percent.

Despite losing significant support in the NBC/WSJ poll among Republican primary voters, Carson, a former neurosurgeon, still performs competitively against the former secretary of state. He would get 47 percent of the vote in a hypothetical matchup, compared to Clinton’s 46 percent. His strong showing would largely be fueled by independent voters, who made up about 11 percent of the poll’s sample of registered voters. They would back Carson by double digits, 48 percent to 34 percent.

Rubio, a senator from Florida, would fare the best overall against Clinton, winning a head-to-head clash 48 percent to 45 percent. Among independents, his margin of victory would be 44 percent to her 37 percent.

Eleven percent? The sample on this poll seems pretty far off if only 11% of respondents are independents. Even if the poll divvies up the leaners to the two parties, true independents should make up a larger portion of the sample than 11%. (Given that a large percentage of these are picking candidates in the poll, these are already “leaners.”) In a better sample with these same numbers among independents, Rubio, Carson, and Cruz would all fare better against Hillary in the overall head-to-head matchup — and Trump would fare worse.

The reason for this isn’t exactly a secret. In every polling series in 2015, Trump has the worst favorability ratings among Republicans, and usually among all candidates, Hillary Clinton included. Trump’s aiming his act towards disaffected Republicans, but it’s not playing with other voters at all. Among the ethnic demographics the GOP hoped to woo, Trump has so far performed disastrously. Hillary Clinton may be unlikable and untrustworthy, but pairing her up with someone even more unlikable dispenses with that advantage for the GOP.

Trump still leads the primary race, but Cruz has made a big move in this polling series:

Mr. Trump had 27% support among Republican primary voters in the new Journal/NBC News survey, his highest showing in that poll this year and an increase from 23% in late October.

But the biggest mover was Mr. Cruz, who had 22% support, up from 10% in late October and a boost strong enough to lift him to the poll’s No. 2 spot for the first time since the campaign began. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida placed third in the survey, with 15% support.

Mr. Carson fell from 29% support in late October to a fourth-place showing of 11% in the new survey.

Carson’s fade is Cruz’s fortune. Carson lost 23 points among “very conservative” voters, and Cruz gained among this demo by exactly the same amount. Carson has had the most dramatic decline in the series this year, even more dramatic than Jeb Bush’s decline over the summer.

The big question will be whether Cruz’ surge, especially in Iowa, will touch off an open war between the two former members of this cycle’s most curious mutual admiration society. Trump has begun publicly criticizing Cruz, but thus far Cruz has not returned fire. That strategy has worked for Cruz thus far, but Cruz can’t just stand around taking punches and maintain his posture. Will tomorrow night see some fireworks? Stay tuned!