We are less than one month away from voters in Iowa and New Hampshire caucusing and casting ballots in the GOP presidential nominating contest. Here is the latest polling data out of those two states:
Fox News: Cruz 27, Trump 23, Rubio 15, Carson 9 (with all others in the mid-to-low single digits).
NBC/Marist: Cruz 28, Trump 24, Rubio 13, Carson 11 (all others at five percent or below).
Quinnipiac: Trump 31, Cruz 29, Rubio 15, Carson 7 (all others at or below five percent).
The data suggests that Donald Trump can pull this off if low-propensity voters show up in force. If turnout operations and ground game matter, Cruz has the inside track. In the Q-poll, a slim majority of likely Republican caucus-goers say their minds are now made up, with Trump supporters being especially likely to have firmly committed. Trump and Jeb Bush are tied for the lead on the "would never support" metric. The former Florida governor is polling below five percent on average in these three polls -- and then there's this:
IA Q-poll: Cruz favorability tops, Carson & Rubio also sky high. Jeb dead last, by far. pic.twitter.com/TGmOCjI2lj— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 11, 2016
Meanwhile, in the Granite State...
Fox News: Trump 33, Rubio 15, Cruz 12, Bush 9, Kasich 7, Christie / Rand Paul 5.
NBC/Marist: Trump 30, Rubio 14, Christie 12, Cruz 10, Kasich 9, Bush 9.
Monmouth: Trump 32, Cruz 14, Kasich 14, Rubio 12, Christie 8, Bush 4.
Some of middle-of-the-pack logjam numbers are all over the map (is Bush at nine percent or four? Is Kasich at 14 or seven? Is Christie at 12 percent or five?), but the biggest takeaway is remarkably consistent: Donald Trump is in first place, roughly doubling the support of his closest competitor -- who is, on average, Marco Rubio. Unless public polling is way, way off, the billionaire mogul is in the driver's seat in this key early state. Might the polling be wildly misleading? It's possible. Look at major recent whiffs in places like Kentucky (though polling in that gubernatorial race wasn't nearly as diverse and robust as it is in Iowa and New Hampshire), and keep in mind that nobody is entirely sure how real Donald Trump's support, in terms of his capacity to actually turn out his people. It's also worth noting that public attitudes can shift rapidly, even -- or especially -- at this relatively late stage:
Give you an idea of how quick things can change in IA/NH, here is 04 Dems... pic.twitter.com/OIca0vgTBW— Harry Enten (@ForecasterEnten) January 11, 2016
With lots of campaigning and two key debates still on tap between today and February 1, it's entirely conceivable that previous cycles' volatility could be replicated in 2016. All that said, I'm not sure I'd bet against Cruz in Hawkeyeland or Trump in 'Live Free or Die' country as of this moment. By the way, over on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton trails Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, has seen her lead shrink to just ten points in Iowa, and has witnessed a clear tightening within the national numbers. Sanders is not serious about beating her, and her institutional, establishment support is all but insurmountable, but he may give her a bit of a scare. The reason is quite simple: She is neither well-liked nor trusted by voters, and understandably so. I'll leave you with this intriguing morsel regarding polling and a potential game-changer:
Former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg commissioned a poll to see how he'd fare against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton https://t.co/8CCGsBagLo— Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) January 10, 2016
Parting thought: Would a third-party gambit from Bloomberg -- a multi-billionaire who'd be able to self-fund and position himself as a "sensible" third way alternative -- actually improve Trump's chances of becoming president, if he's the GOP nominee? In that race, you'd have three uber-rich plutocrats from New York, only one of whom seems to command very much genuine blue collar appeal, only one of whom is running as (an alleged) social conservative, only one of whom is (currently) pro-guns, and only one of whom is channeling populist anxieties about immigration and national security. Bloomberg might end up being the vessel through which centrists and left-leaning voters register their distaste for Hillary's ethical foibles and serial dishonesty -- without having to pull the lever for that awful Trump fellow, or offend their culturally liberal sensibilities. Plus, how many center-right voters would manifest their distaste for Trump by supporting...an Obama-endorsing, tax-hiking, nanny-stater, abortion fanatic and climate change warrior who's spent millions on behalf of gun control? I can certainly be convinced otherwise, but it's not my immediate conviction that Bloomberg would hurt Trump more than Hillary.