Class: The new Republican fault line

Trump’s appeal with blue-collar Republicans also largely explains his success at remaining competitive with Cruz among evangelicals, despite the broad support the Texas senator has assembled from religious conservative leaders like Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council. Figures provided by Marist from its new state surveys show that Cruz leads Trump by nearly two-to-one among college-educated evangelicals in Iowa, and runs even with the billionaire among them in South Carolina. But among evangelicals without a college degree, Marist found Trump thumping Cruz by 14 percentage points in both states.

Though Trump is showing strength across the GOP spectrum, one group consistently has expressed less enthusiasm about him: Republicans holding at least a four-year college degree. But those voters are now fragmented among a series of center-right choices, including Bush, Christie, Kasich, and Rubio as well as Cruz and Trump himself. That’s especially true in New Hampshire, whose primary has often anointed the favorite of the party’s college-educated “managerial” wing.

Trump’s rivals all have different theories of how they would assemble a coalition against him. Cruz hopes to work in from the right; Christie, Bush, and Kasich to build out from the center; and Rubio to dip into all of the party’s factions. Yet all are operating on the common belief—or maybe the hope—that Trump cannot expand his support enough to win if the race eventually becomes a one-on-one contest. “His Achilles’ heel is his ceiling,” said the senior strategist for another campaign. “He is continually the candidate not only with the highest very favorable rating, but the highest very unfavorable rating. He is utterly unacceptable to a very significant portion of the Republican electorate. And while he may be getting somewhat more acceptable to some of the donors, there is a huge portion of the Republican Party that will never ever support him. Ever. And the question now is: ‘What is the size of that group?’”