CBS/NYT poll: Trump back on top, Cruz edges Carson for runner-up nationally

Donald Trump gets his highest rating in the CBS/New York Times polling series, while Ben Carson’s slide has become unmistakable. Ted Cruz has moved into second place with 16%, making his move with evangelicals. Trump gets 35% of the respondents to support him, but CBS notes that most of the interviews for this poll took place prior to Trump’s call for a ban on entry for Muslims to the US:

Thirty-five percent of Republican primary voters support Trump, up 13 points since October, and his highest level of support in CBS News polling. Ted Cruz (16 percent) has moved into second place, while Ben Carson, who led the October poll, has dropped to third.

Marco Rubio is in fourth place with 9 percent. Jeb Bush is getting the backing of just 3 percent of Republican primary voters nationwide, his lowest percentage to date in CBS News polling. Carly Fiorina’s support has also dropped; she is at just 1 percent now.

Most of the interviews for this poll were conducted before Trump made statements concerning a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Would that have made a 19-point difference — or even a 13-point difference, which is the amount gained by Trump between the previous poll and this one? Probably not. Trump’s 13-point gain in this series exactly matches Carson’s 13-point drop in it over the same period of time, and that appears to parallel the recent shift in focus to national security. Trump’s bombast makes him sound like a leader, or really more of a bully and braggart, but the vacuum of leadership in this country on national security has voters hungry for anything that even resembles confidence and leadership. Carson doesn’t project that, and foreign policy has been his weak point all along.

Nor is this an outlier. Take a look at Carson’s numbers in the RCP average over the last month (Carson is the red line):

rcp-carson-fade

It’s not quite a plunge, but Carson is suffering from a definite fade. Both Cruz and Marco Rubio are possibly getting a little benefit from that, but on this chart it seems clear that Carson’s voters are migrating toward Trump. That makes sense; both candidates represent the demand for someone outside the established GOP roster, so one’s fade will be the other’s boon, at least for the moment.

Cruz and Rubio may be getting at least some of their boost from the dissipation of support from the rest of the field. The CBS/NYT poll has Jeb Bush at 3% and Carly Fiorina all the way down to 1%, which isn’t far off from their RCP averages, either. That makes the upcoming CNN debate rather interesting. Remember, the criteria to make the main stage requires candidates to have at least 3.5% in national polling, and 4% in average polling in either New Hampshire or Iowa [see update]. In the last five polls in the RCP listing, Bush has an average of … 3.6%. Chris Christie averages 2.5% over the same period, and Fiorina gets a 2.2% average. CNN’s decision depends on which polls they choose for their average, of course, but right now it looks like the main debate will have at most five contestants, and Bush is a big maybe on the cusp.

CBS and the NYT will release the crosstabs this evening, so Allahpundit may revisit this. One can be certain that the campaigns, and CNN, will be parsing these results very, very carefully, too.

Update: Jonathan Green disagrees on the criteria, and says that the and is actually another or:

He may be right on this, although their analysis of Rand Paul’s risk seems to consider the national polling threshold as a firm prerequisite. If so, then Kasich, Christie, and Bush have nothing to worry about, and Paul and Fiorina may still squeeze onto the stage too.