New Polls: Rubio Rising, Trump Falling

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A couple of new polls indicate that the results of the Iowa caucuses could have significant ramifications for the course of the 2016 primaries. Sen. Ted Cruz may have emerged the winner in the nation’s first official vote, but it could be Marco Rubio who gained the most on Monday night. His surprisingly strong third-place finish appears to have infused his campaign with fresh energy, giving moderate Republican voters new cause to feel optimistic about the election.

A New Hampshire poll taken by WHDH and UMass shows Rubio taking over Cruz’s second place position behind frontrunner Donald Trump. Since the Iowa results came in, Rubio has gained seven points in New Hampshire while Trump has lost three. As of Thursday, the standings look like this:

Trump, 36 percent;
Rubio, 15 percent;
Ted Cruz, 14 percent;
Jeb Bush, 8 percent;
John Kasich, 7 percent;
Chris Christie, 5 percent;
Ben Carson, 4 percent;
Carly Fiorina, 3 percent

To be sure, Trump is still on top. But if we make the cautious assumption that Bush, Christie, and Kasich supporters would largely flock to Rubio should their candidates drop out, both he and Cruz could have a tough road to the nomination.

This is also reflected in the first national polls that have come out since Iowa. In a new survey put out by Public Policy Polling, Trump has lost 9% of his support since December. He still leads the field with 25%, but both Cruz and Rubio are hot on his heels, tied at 21% a piece. And when the PPP survey pitted the three against each other, Rubio emerged the favorite.

So is this it? After all of the excitement, is the conservative insurgency going to simply fade away as Republicans head to the voting booths? Were the pundits right all along in claiming that Trump could never get beyond a certain ceiling of support? Did the sheer number of candidates in the primaries give Trump an illusion of invincibility that he would not have had otherwise?

It’s too soon to tell. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last eight months, it’s that nothing about this primary season can be foretold. Right now, no doubt about it: things look good for Rubio and his establishment supporters. But things can change in an instant, as Rubio himself can attest. Furthermore, it’s too early to assume that Cruz can’t take advantage of his Iowa win and compound it with good showings in subsequent states. Finally, while we can assume that the RNC will soon be begging Bush and Christie to drop out, there’s no guarantee that they will. If they stick around and divide Rubio’s would-be supporters, Trump could still pull this off.

And if the establishment does get its way and Rubio becomes the nominee, things could be worse. And in fact, a glance at the other side’s election tells that story better than anything else.