Firewalls don’t appear to have much strength against the Donald Trump onslaught in this primary cycle. Ted Cruz’ Texas firewall held, but the home-state hopes of Trump’s other rivals look precarious in today’s new CNN/ORC polling. Trump holds a six-point lead over John Kasich in Ohio, but it’s Trump’s double-digit lead over Marco Rubio that will fuel headlines — and calls for strategic withdrawal:
Donald Trump is leading two of his Republican presidential rivals in their home states, topping Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida and Gov. John Kasich in Ohio, new CNN/ORC polls show.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is far ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in both states.
In Ohio, Trump holds 41% to Kasich’s 35%, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in third at 15% and Rubio in fourth with 7%.
And in Florida, Trump holds 40% to Rubio’s 24%, with Cruz at 19% and Kasich at 5%.
Give Kasich credit for showing this much strength. He didn’t make much of a dent elsewhere except the three states on which he focused, but still has come up short in two — New Hampshire and Michigan, where he fell into third place by just eight thousand votes. Kasich is hanging tough in Ohio too, and six points may still have him in position to pull off an upset next Tuesday. Kasich has a strong network on the ground and knows how to turn out votes, even among demos that don’t usually go in for Republicans such as African-Americans, where he got 26% of the vote for his last gubernatorial run. With his back against the wall, Kasich might have an advantage over Trump in that sense, plus voters for Cruz and Rubio may decide that the winner-take-all contest really should come down to just two candidates — at least in their state.
Florida is another story. Rubio knows how to win in the state, but almost every poll over the last four months put Trump ahead by double digits. Monmouth put Rubio within eight, but that was a small sample of 403 likely voters. However, this sample is even smaller at 313 likely voters, a point which Team Marco will make when responding to it. Even so, the results almost exactly match a Quinnipiac poll of 705 LVs and a Gravis poll of 751 LVs three weeks ago. If nothing else, it’s not an outlier.
Speaking of Quinipiac, they have new polls out for Ohio and Florida as well — and guess what it shows?
Donald Trump leads native son Sen. Marco Rubio 45 – 22 percent among Florida likely Republican primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, with 18 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and 8 percent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
This compares to a 44 – 28 percent Trump lead over Rubio in a February 25 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.
In Ohio, Gov. Kasich trails Trump 38 – 32 percent, compared to a 31 – 26 percent Trump lead February 23 Cruz has 16 percent, with 9 percent for Rubio.
In Florida, Trump leads Rubio among both men and women, while Kasich leads among women in Ohio. In both states, though, Trump dominates most of the demos, even the “very conservative” votes in Florida (and is only four points behind in that demo for Ohio, 36/32 Cruz). In fact, Trump leads all of the political philosophy demos in Florida handily.
Combined with a stunning lack of competitiveness in last night’s contests, this has to have Rubio’s campaign doing some deep thinking about where to go from here. No one would have expected him to win, but to get shut out of delegate allocation from four proportional states has to come as a shock. And sure enough, that’s what Major Garrett reported early this morning:
— Mosheh Oinounou (@Mosheh) March 9, 2016
Fox News Latino says this is the make-or-break moment:
“It has to happen here, and it has to happen now,” [Rubio] told a swelling Sarasota crowd Tuesday evening.
But it won’t be easy with Trump still ahead in the polls and a late push from Cruz, who senses an opportunity to sink Rubio even if he can’t win the state for himself.
“This is do-or-die for Rubio,” said die-hard supporter Jim Wilson, who follows the young senator’s campaign across the country in his pickup truck.
Suddenly reduced to a single-state strategy, Rubio’s team says he will campaign in Florida and nowhere else for the next week, even as four other states also prepare to host primary elections Tuesday. At the same time, his allies are pelting Trump with an avalanche of negative ads on Florida TV that reinforce the same message Rubio and his army of volunteers offer to anyone who will listen: Trump can’t be trusted.
Rubio doesn’t actually have much of a choice now. Thanks to early voting, a strategic withdrawal won’t do anything to change the calculus in Florida except perhaps to enhance Trump’s lead. The best Rubio can hope to do is to consolidate support from Cruz and Kasich in the same way Kasich will try in Ohio, with an argument that Florida needs to stop Trump from locking up the path to the nomination. That’s a much longer shot for Rubio than it is for Kasich in two states where polling has been prolific and fairly consistent. On the other hand, that’s what Hillary Clinton thought about Michigan, too.
The problem for both men is this: even if they do win their home states, what’s next? Kasich has only been competitive in three states, and will only have one win if he prevails in Ohio with no path to another victory. Rubio has two wins, but his fade from contention in recent states doesn’t signal much hope past the Sunshine State. Both campaigns have about six days to prove their competitiveness, after which the window will have closed on their presidential aspirations in this cycle … and perhaps on the #NeverTrump contingent.