Right, right, national polls aren’t worth much, especially six weeks into state-by-state voting, but they’re interesting as evidence of broad trends that might (or might not) be shaping up. The theory was that Rubio finally getting KO’d in Florida would free up 10-15 percent of the Republican vote, most of which would stampede towards Cruz as the last conservative standing against Trump. That’s … not what we’re seeing here. Cruz is up, but so is Kasich. And in one of these polls, so is Trump.
Twelve percent of the vote shook loose with Rubio’s departure — and Cruz, up four points from 23 percent, received just a third of it. Kasich gained five points by contrast while the “someone else” and “don’t know” categories each received a couple of percentage points. That’s not the numbers you’d expect to see if consolidation behind Cruz were underway.
Rasmussen has a similar story:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters finds Trump with 43% support to Senator Ted Cruz’s 28% and Ohio Governor John Kasich’s 21%. Just five percent (5%) of GOP voters like some other candidate, and three percent (3%) remain undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
In our last survey of the Republican field just after the February 20 South Carolina Primary and Jeb Bush’s departure from the race, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson were still in the running. At that time, it was Trump 36%, Rubio 21%, Cruz 17%, Kasich 12% and Carson with eight percent (8%) GOP support.
So, a month ago, Trump led Rubio(!) by 15 points and Cruz by 19. A month later, good news for the Cruz crew: He’s cut into that lead. The bad news? He’s cut into it by … four points, and that’s with Rubio and social conservative Ben Carson having dropped out in the interim. Cruz has gained 11 points from their departure, but Trump himself has gained seven and John Kasich, the alleged nonfactor in the race, has gained nine to pull within seven points of Cruz for second place. The strategy for the two non-Trumps at this point would be straightforward in a sane world: Split up the map into red and blue states and even red and blue districts and, at a minimum, have a nonaggression pact for those areas. Cruz doesn’t compete in blue areas, Kasich doesn’t compete in red ones. Ideally they’d coordinate to actively support each other district by district, as that may be the sole remaining way to hold Trump far enough under 1,237 delegates that victory isn’t assured on the first ballot in Cleveland. (Although some may disagree.) Cruz and Kasich both have every incentive to do this if they’re playing to win since, realistically, neither one of them will gain the delegates they need to clinch before the convention. (Cruz could do it hypothetically, but he won’t. Kasich has already been mathematically eliminated.) As I say — if they’re playing to win. But one of them, it seems, isn’t.
Maybe these numbers will change a bit as Rubio fans, embittered by Cruz’s attacks on him during the campaign, soften up a bit over the next few weeks. Or maybe it was foolish of Cruz fans to ever have believed he’d receive the lion’s share of Rubio’s support. Their policy preferences are similar but their personas aren’t, and if there’s one shining lesson from this primary it’s that persona matters a lot more to voters vis-a-vis policy than political junkies like might to believe. Could be that there are many thousands of Rubio fans out there who, all bitterness aside, simply don’t like Cruz personally and don’t like how he operates. Kasich, the self-styled “prince of light and hope,” is more similar to Rubio temperamentally than Cruz is, at least in terms of the public face he’s used for this campaign. His private face may be different.
Anyway, no big deal. The vote will continue to be split, Trump will clinch the nomination, the GOP may very well lose both chambers of Congress — yes, really — and the seventh seal will finally be broken. It’s Friday, baby. Time to drink, be of good cheer, and stare at graphs like this one and this one until you kinda sorta believe them.