Donald Trump, Ted Cruz Continue To Rise In Early State Polling

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are surging in state polls as we head toward the holidays.

Donald Trump Ted Cruz

A new set of state-based polls has good news for both Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and makes the fact that neither man has spent much time attacking the other all the more interesting:

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.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio remains in double digits in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and Governor Chris Christie has now shown upward movement in New Hampshire, doubling his support there in the last month.

The backdrop to all this is a mood of anxiety – both economic and personal security – pervading the GOP electorate in these early states. Nine in ten in all states feel the country is now a more dangerous and insecure place, including 95 percent of Iowa GOP voters who say that, and nine in ten feel the nation’s economic system is one that hurts them instead of benefits them. Terrorism and national security are now specifically front-and-center on primary voters’ minds: in Iowa, 61 percent say it is their top decision-making criteria for candidates, ahead of the economy; in New Hampshire, 66 percent cite terrorism and security ahead of 28 percent on the economy.

First up is Iowa, where Cruz has been moving up slowly but surely for several weeks now and where the new poll, conducted by CBS and YouGov using the online polling methods I’ve discussed before, has Cruz with 40% and Trump in second place at 30%. After Trump, there’s a significant drop to get to third place, where Marco Rubio sits with 12%, followed by Ben Carson at 6%, and every other candidate at 2% or worse. These numbers push Cruz (30.2) to a four point lead in the RealClearPolitics average, followed by Trump (26.2%), Rubio (12.3%) and Carson (10.0%), with all of the other candidates currently averaging in the single digits.

In New Hampshire, the new poll shows Trump in a league of his own at 32%, followed by Cruz at 14%, Rubio at 13%, and Chris Christie at 11%. After Christie, we have Ohio Governor John Kasich at 8%, Jeb Bush at 6%, Ben Carson and Rand Paul both at 5$, and Carly Fiorina at 4%. None of the other candidates polled above 1%. Trump’s strong lead is mirrored in the poll average, where Trump stands at 28.3%, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio at 12.0%, Chris Christie at 11%, and no other candidate averaging in single digits. Additionally, Trump’s lead in the Granite State with no real challenger rising up to meet him, continues a trend that goes all the way back to late July when Trump first passed Jeb Bush to become the front-runner in the Granite State. That’s just under five straight months where Trump has been in the lead in New Hampshire.

Finally, in South Carolina, which has become as important among early primary states for Republicans as New Hampshire in recent decades, Donald Trump (38%) has a fifteen point lead over Cruz (23%), with Marco Rubio trailing in third place at 12%, followed by Ben Carson at 9%, Jeb Bush at 7%, and Rand Paul at 4%. No other candidate garners more than 3% in this poll of the Palmetto State. As with the other states, the results here are largely mirrored in the poll average, where Trump (33.7%) now has a 14.4 point lead over the second place Cruz (19.3%) while Marco Rubio sits in third place at 12.3% and Ben Carson holds on to a double digit average at 11.3% but clearly seems to be headed down into single digit territory before long. After Carson, Jeb Bush sits at a 7.3% average, while everyone else is averaging 3.0% or less.

In an ordinary election cycle, this would seem to make it seemingly inevitable that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will inevitably lock horns at some point before voting actually begins. Many were anticipating that we’d see some of that at the debate last Tuesday, but instead Trump and Cruz both continued to decline to directly attack each other and Cruz instead concentrated his fire on Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Those two have continued their battle, which has centered mostly on the issue of immigration and Rubio’s support for an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, while Trump has been engaged in a rhetorical back and forth with Jeb Bush of all people, which seems odd mostly because of Bush’s relatively weak position in the polls. There have been plenty of theories for why Trump and Cruz are avoiding each other right now, some more conspiratorial than the other, but it strikes me that this is a battle that can only be delayed for so long. If the field starts to clear and the battle comes down to one between Trump, Cruz, and some establishment-type candidate, which would most likely be either Rubio or Christie at this point, then Cruz and Trump are going to have to face off against one another at some point. If and when it happens, it could be the decisive moment that allows one of them to rise even further, or it could be the political equivalent of a matter/anti-matter explosion in which both candidates are so fatally damaged that it allows another candidate to rise up in their wake.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. An Interested Party says:

    I’m sure Hillary wouldn’t mind facing either one of these guys…the attack ads will write themselves…

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Cruz is scary religious. Religion’s a fine thing in moderation, but I object to giving nuclear launch codes to someone who may WANT the end times. I don’t know how to make people aware of this without looking anti-Evangelical.

    But I’m sure Hillary has people on staff who know how.

  3. CSK says:


    Cruz is a fundamentalist. He may well be also an evangelical, but “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are not the same thing. Many liberals, who are also religious, are evangelicals. They are not fundamentalists. In 2000, one third of self-identified evangelicals voted for Al Gore

    People should not confuse the two terms.

  4. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CSK: I agree, but the problem that we all face now is that since “fundamentalist” is has taken on associations of irrational separatism, and not unfairly, many fundamentalists decline to acknowledge their beliefs and identify themselves as “evangelicals” (which used to be a pejorative term when I grew up among the Regular Baptists). If there are evangelicals who do not wish to be tarred with the fundy brush, they may have to figure out ways to create better definitions of who they really are. The hybridized term “fundamentalist evangelical” doesn’t help matters either.

  5. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Nor does it help that most of the “fundamentalists” alive today don’t know exactly how manyfundamentals there are or could correctly select the from a multiple choice list.

  6. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    I see your point, but it may be an insoluble problem. Take, for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which is quite liberal socially. It would be an enormous effort for them to change the name of the denomination. Numerous Episcopalian churches, also socially liberal, are named St. John the Evangelist.

    I speak as someone who was raised in a non-religious family and never attended any church, so I have no particular dog in this fight. But I do not like to see reasonable religious people tarred with the same brush as a bunch of lunatics who think Toddler Jesus kept a pet stegosaurus in his back yard.

  7. Tyrell says:

    @CSK: Evangelical. evangelist, evangelism has taken on different meanings today. I think the term itself comes from the word “angel”. I am not up on the theology of that. The days of people going around knocking on doors and handing out church information is largely over, and that method is ineffective. Today evangelism is tied to mission and “outreach”, which could be anything from a mission trip to Central America to rebuild housing, a street block party, a job fair, or an adult literacy class. Evangelical cuts across denominations, from Catholic to Pentecostal. Evangelism is a term that has many aspects to it. Years ago, in the ’60’s, a “charismatic” movement swept the church, characterized by contemporary music, movement in worship, speaking in “tongues”, and other forms. I went to a few of these and you had a mix of people in suits sitting next to people in jeans and wearing beads. Then, in the ’90’s the “emergent” church came along. Calvinism has once again became a major issue. Mega churches sprang up, as mainline denominations went into a free fall collapse. That is the new thing. Most new churches springing up are independent, not tied to a denomination. These churches are growing, and seem like are always expanding, with large facilities which can include a large gym and even a private school.
    There was also a time that I remember when most churches, including the Southern Baptist, would not dare get into politics.

  8. Siegfried Heydrich says:

    @An Interested Party: Especially since every neo-nazi, white supremacist, and christian dominionist group in the country has endorsed Trump. On video. The attack ads will almost write themselves.

  9. Grewgills says:

    There are several terms that all apply in the case of the Cruzes. They are dominionist, charismatics, and evangelical. The dominionist bit is the scariest, but charismatics and fundamentalists of all stripes can be dangerous to secular civil society.

  10. CSK says:

    @Siegfried Heydrich:

    Yes, indeed. Stormfront is apparently touting Trump as the savior of Aryans everywhere.