A little good news for my fellow Cruz supporters here, especially since Trump was within five of Cruz in Texas in the last poll taken there in January. It comes with caveats, though. The big one: The poll was taken before South Carolina, where Trump won big and gained some new momentum. How many Texans, having followed that result, will now shift from Cruz to Trump on the theory that Cruz is a dead man walking and Trump’s the only remaining anti-establishment game in town?
Cruz had 37 percent of the vote in the poll. Trump, the businessman and TV personality who finished first in two of the three states that have already voted, had the support of 29 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at 15 percent…
The three leaders were the only Republican candidates to attract double-digit percentages of churchgoers. Cruz did best, pulling 38 percent of voters who attend church more than once a week, 38 percent of the once-a-week worshippers and 54 percent of those who said they attend church a few times a month. Trump was second in each of those groups, with 22 percent of the first group and more than a quarter of the other two. He also did best among voters who never attend church: 32 percent of those were with Trump, 27 percent with Cruz and 21 percent with Rubio.
The poll included Jeb Bush, who notched six percent, and obviously it didn’t pick up new momentum for Rubio from his South Carolina showing and the many endorsements that have since followed. If Rubio consolidates Bush’s voters and picks up a few from Kasich, he should inch into the 20s. The question is what effect he’ll have in peeling some conservative votes away from Cruz now that that perception is growing that Rubio’s the last chance to stop Trump. Cruz could bleed votes in two different directions, in other words. More than that, at the start of the month he was hoping to win SC and then parlay that into a clear majority win in his home state, which is winner-take-all if the winner notches more than 50 percent of the vote. That would be quite a haul, as Texas has 155 delegates. As it is, Cruz may win the state but he almost certainly won’t do it with 50 percent, which means the delegates will split proportionally. He’ll reduce his deficit with Trump but only by a little, and meanwhile Trump will likely be padding his lead by cleaning up elsewhere in the south on Super Tuesday. And because Cruz won the state, he’ll likely take it as encouragement to continue his campaign, which means he’ll continue to split conservative votes with Rubio elsewhere (and, perhaps, split populist votes with Trump).
As for Ohio, is this poll good or bad for Kasich?
Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday shows GOP presidential front-runner Trump beating Kasich 31% to 26% in Ohio, which will holds its primary on March 15 in a winner-take-all contest.
Ted Cruz comes in third with 21% support, followed by Marco Rubio with 13% and Ben Carson with 5%…
“A Kasich Ohio win is crucial to the Republicans trying to stop the New York businessman’s nomination,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a release accompanying the results. “If Trump can defeat Kasich in his home state, that would be an impressive demonstration of his strength in a state that is just now getting attention. But Trump’s lead is just 5 points, certainly not large enough for him to breathe easy.”
Righties on Twitter are oohing and aahing this morning that this proves Kasich’s “strategy,” such as it is, is panning out. He’s going to hang in there, beat Trump in Ohio and Michigan, and then be the only non-Trump game in town. He’s doing it right here — he’s within striking distance! Yeah, he’s within striking distance in his own state, as a sitting governor. That’s weak. And everything that happens between now and March 15th, when Ohio votes, should favor Trump and disfavor Kasich. Kasich will be an almost total nonfactor for the next three weeks whereas Trump will be piling up delegates in the south. Kasich is facing enormous pressure right now to quit the race and clear a path for Rubio, who’s adding major endorsements from big-name Republicans daily and will have plenty more, likely including Mitt Romney’s, by mid-March. The more Kasich stands by and watches the two-man-race narrative develop between Trump and Rubio, the more incentive undecided Ohioans have to choose between those two on election day. There’s no reason to think Kasich wins unless Rubio totally collapses in the next three weeks, which is unlikely given that party leaders are boosting him for a big showdown with Trump in Florida, which votes the same day. In other words, there’s good reason to think 26 percent is Kasich’s ceiling in Ohio. Tell me again why this result is “good” for him.
This poll was also taken before South Carolina, in fact, meaning that some of Kasich’s centrist supporters may have already jumped ship for Rubio (or Trump!) due to this second-place finish there. That’s the only consolation for you from this data if you’re a Rubio fan — it’s “old,” gathered before he became the consensus establishment choice, and so he’s probably doing a few points better in Ohio right now than this poll captures. (He may also have picked up a few of Cruz’s voters there as the “stop Trump” effort becomes more urgent.) Thirteen percent is awfully weak for a guy who’s supposed to appeal to various ideological stripes of the party, though, even with Kasich cannibalizing a huge chunk of the center-right vote. You can see why Larry Sabato and Ross Douthat think it’s time for Rubio to offer him a deal to get out in exchange for becoming VP. If Rubio were to beat Trump in Florida and Ohio on March 15th, then I think we really would have a “reset” of the race where either of them could be nominee and Rubio’s the likely favorite. Anything short of that, though, and it’s probably Trump’s nomination. And right now Rubio is very far short of it.