Cruz solidifies Iowa lead in latest CBS poll

As much as The Donald may hate to admit it, he’s got some serious competition in Iowa these days. When the first couple of polls came out showing a shift in the terrain, I was still advising caution against jumping on this too quickly. (You’ll recall that the first big poll showing him slipping there came out on the same day that CNN had him still ahead by nearly double digits.) But this weekend we’ve got yet another long running sample which is backing up the new, end of the year paradigm. The CBS News survey is showing Ted Cruz up big.

Donald Trump, the national front-runner, keeps his big lead in two of the three early states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, but now Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has moved past Trump into a lead of his own in Iowa…

Ted Cruz, building on momentum he first showed in our polling last month, has overtaken Trump in Iowa with a big boost from evangelical voters and specifically, from the former backers of Ben Carson. Trump’s support remains stable, but Cruz’s influx of converts is more than enough to help take the lead.

As most Iowa Republicans say terrorism and security are their number-one criteria for judging a candidate, Trump and Cruz are running even among them. But of the one in five Iowans who say “faith and religious values” matter most — above even handling terrorism and the economy — Cruz is crushing Trump by more than five to one, and that’s the difference in the race along issue lines.

Here’s the rundown of the numbers:

Cruz – 40
Trump – 31
Rubio – 12
Carson – 6
Bush, Paul, Fiorina, Huckabee – 2
Kasich, Christie, Santorum – 1
Pataki, Gilmore, Graham – 0

The key takeaway here is that Trump’s Iowa support really hasn’t sagged so much as Cruz has vacuumed up nearly all of Carson’s voters. A couple of months ago the neurosurgeon was in the lead and he’s now back at 6%, barely in front of the folks who are under the background noise level. Of course, even if this trend holds for a month, Cruz is going to have to find a way to begin carving into The Donald’s lead somewhere else or he may find himself the odd man out after the SEC Primary a month later.

Speaking of the other states, Cruz is doing better in New Hampshire, but still being more than doubled up with 14% to Trump’s 32%. And that’s a slim 2nd place, since Rubio is at 13. The continuing surprise story there is Christie moving into 4th with 11 and everyone else in single digits. There’s also not much of a change in South Carolina where it’s Trump 38, Cruz 23 and Rubio 12. The consistent themes across the three early states seem to be that Trump may be near his ceiling finally, but nothing he does or says is deflating him. Cruz is coming on strong by poaching Carson’s supporters and Rubio is the only other one with significant (if distant) juice.

Frankly, I’d be shocked if there’s much more action between now and Christmas and the period from there to New Years tends to be pretty dead. Then we’re into the final push, so get ready for some chippy action in January!

CruzSmiles