If The Latest Polls Are Right, Everything’s Coming Up Trump

With mere days until voting starts, the possibility of Donald Trump running the table in the February primaries and caucuses, or nearly doing so, is more and more likely.

Trump Nixon V

While the news of the morning continues to focus on Donald Trump’s decision to sit out the last Republican debate before Iowa in favor of what he’s calling a rally to raise money for wounded veteran’s charities, and pundits wonder what a Trump-less Republican debate will look like and just how many people will watch tonight, the polls continue to show the New York real estate mogul running the table in the three major early state contests:

In the Hawkeye State, real estate mogul Donald Trump now leads the GOP pack with 32 percent support from likely GOP caucus-goers. Texas senator Ted Cruz gets 25 percent, Florida senator Marco Rubio has 18 percent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has eight percent and former Florida governor Jeb Bush has four percent. All other Republican candidates get just two percent backing apiece from likely caucus-goers.

The results are an improvement for Trump, who trailed Cruz 24 percent to 28 percent in the same poll less than three weeks ago.

The poll also shows Trump in a close race with Cruz among likely voters who are white evangelical Christians, 31 percent to 28 percent. The two candidates have been battling over the influential bloc of voters in the state, with each touting endorsements from evangelical heavyweights in recent days.

As he has throughout the campaign, Trump has a big advantage with non-college graduates, winning 42 percent of their support compared to 24 percent for Cruz and 12 percent for Rubio.

Among likely caucus-goers who are Republican college graduates, Trump receives 20 percent, while Cruz gets 26 percent and Rubio gets 24 percent.

Trump’s seven point lead in this poll is consistent with the results of two other polls released in recent days, one from Monmouth University and the other from ARG, which also show him leading the field by seven points, and they seem to suggest that the Quinnipiac poll that I made note of the other day that showed Trump with only a two point lead was indeed an outlier. In the RealClearPolitics average of Hawkeye State polling, Trump now has a 6.0 point lead over Ted Cruz, garnering an average of 32.0% support compared to Cruz’s 26.0%. These two are followed by Marco Rubio, the only other candidate averaging in double digits at 13.3% with some signs in recent polling that the Florida Senator may have some upward momentum in the first contest of the 2016 race that could cause him to finish stronger than many might suspect. This would be good news for Rubio, who has garnered much attention, as well as endorsements, from Capitol Hill and the GOP establishment, as well as praise for his debate performances of late, but has yet to see it translate into anything substantial at the polls. Rubio is unlikely to have to the momentum to make it into second place, I think, but even a strong third place finish in Iowa could help him going forward. After Rubio, Ben Carson comes in fourth at 7.6%, which is largely where he’s held since his campaign collapsed at the end of last year, which suggests he may serve as something of a barrier for anyone below him to rise any further. After Carson, no candidate is averaging higher than four percent. The results, if not the actual numbers, are largely the same in the broader poll average measured by Pollster.

Given that Iowa is a caucus state, the polling here should of course be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, the most important factor here will be which candidate has the supporters that are most likely to show up at their caucus site Monday night and do what needs to be done to show their support for their candidate. In that regard, it’s still unclear what we can expect to see from Trump supporters, many of whom have never caucused before or have only done so on rare occasions. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, generally draws his support from groups such as evangelicals that have a long history of making it to the caucus site no matter what the weather conditions. This could give the Texas Senator enough of an advantage to allow him to eke out a narrow win, or we could see Trump do what Barack Obama did eight years ago and win the caucuses outright thanks to a surge in first-time caucus goers. Since it’s hard to forecast something like that, I’d currently classify Iowa as a toss-up between Trump and Cruz, with the possibility that we could see a surprisingly strong third place finish from Rubio.

In New Hampshire, Trump continues to maintain a strong lead that seems to be solid:

Trump remains the dominant frontrunner in New Hampshire, getting 31 percent support compared to 12 percent for Cruz, a margin largely unchanged from polling earlier this month. Rubio and Ohio governor John Kasich tie for third place at 11 percent, while Bush garners eight percent and New Jersey governor Chris Christie gets seven percent. No other Republican candidate polls at more than five percent in the state.

Again, Trump runs the table with key voting groups, leading with young voters (37 percent), Tea Party supporters (34 percent), independents (26 percent) and with white evangelicals (26 percent – although the share of evangelicals in New Hampshire is much smaller than in Iowa.)

One of the more interesting questions about New Hampshire is what will happen with that state’s large bloc of independent voters, who can chose to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries. As was the case in 2008 when those voters had a choice between Barack Obama on the Democratic side and John McCain on the Republican side, this time they are presented with two populist candidates in each party that, while the present very different messages to voters both tend to speak in ways that arguably appeal to independent voters more than the other candidates in either party. How those independents divide themselves could have a huge impact in both the Republican race and in the Democratic race, where this same NBC/Marist poll gives Sanders a nineteen point lead over Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s lead in New Hampshire in this poll is largely consistent with polling in the Granite State that goes back several weeks now, and with the general trend in the state that tends to show Trump as the undisputed leader of the first in the nation primary. In the RealClearPolitics average, Trump has an average lead of 20.5 points at this point in the race, with Ted Cruz far behind at with an average of 12.5%, Ohio Governor John Kasich in third place at 11.8% and Marco Rubio in fourth with 10.8%. After Rubio, Jeb Bush is in fifth place at 9.3%. In other words, three of the four “establishment” candidates in the race are within an average 2.5% of each other. This is arguably worrisome for establishment Republicans hoping for the emergence of a clear establishment champion to challenge Trump out of the early primaries in general and New Hampshire in particular. Given the trends right now, it doesn’t appear that this will happen and that could make any effort to stop Trump and Cruz all the more difficult. Behind Bush in sixth place, though, is Chris Christie with an average at 6.9%. If Christie doesn’t improve his numbers in the Granite State then we may see him drop out after primary day, which at least would narrow the “establishment” field to some degree, but would still leave the party without any clear challenger to Trump and Cruz. After Christie, no candidate is averaging about four percent in the state. Given these numbers, at this point one has to classify New Hampshire as a state where Trump clearly has the advantage and one that he should be expected to win if he can get his voters to the polls on February 9th. Then, the race will move south.

Arguably, South Carolina is more important in the race for the Republican nomination than either New Hampshire or Iowa have been given the fact, with the exception of Newt Gingrich in 2012, no candidate has won the nomination without winning the Palmetto State primary, and in that state Trump also holds a solid lead:

Trump wins 36 percent of likely Republican primary voters, 16 points ahead of Cruz, who finishes second at 20 percent. Rubio garners 14 percent support, Bush gets nine percent, and Carson gets eight percent. All other candidates receive two percent support or less.

Among white evangelicals in the Palmetto State, Trump wins 33 percent, while Cruz receives 25 percent

So far, South Carolina has not been polled nearly as much as Iowa and New Hampshire have. That will likely change as we move past Iowa and pollsters start to concentrate on races further down the line, and it’s also worth noting that voter opinion in the state could change significantly depending on what happens in the first two contests. Nonetheless, this is another state where Trump seems to have a huge advantage at the moment, something that was emphasized last night when Trump picked up the endorsement of Henry McMaster, a long-established figure in Soth Carolina Republican politics who now serves as the states Lt. Governor. He leads the RealClearPolitics poll average by more than sixteen points and has had a strong lead there for some time now. After Trump, Ted Cruz comes in second in the poll average at 19.7%, followed by Marco Rubio at 12.7%, Jeb Bush at 10.0%, and Ben Carson at 8.7% After Carson, no other candidate is averaging higher than three percent in the Palmetto State, including potential “establishment” candidates such as Chris Christie and John Kasich. Along with New Hampshire this would be another state where Trump has the advantage, although the situation here is likely to change significantly as February goes on and candidates begin to drop out of the race.

Taking into account the caveat that much could change in the fast moving environment we’ll be in once the voting starts in Iowa on Monday, these numbers suggest that we could end up with a situation a month from now where Donald Trump has run the table on the early primaries and caucuses, or nearly done so if he ends up finishing second to Ted Cruz in Iowa instead of winning as the polls now suggest he could. The one February contest I’ve left out of the mix is the Nevada caucus, but that’s largely because it’s been a month since anyone of consequence has polled there, but I suppose its worth noting that the RealClearPolitics average in that state was also decidedly in Trump’s favor. Nevada is also a caucus state, but its caucus is run in a very different manner from Iowa’s so it’s unclear what the real on the ground situation there is. Nonetheless, let’s assume that Trump wins there as well, or at least pulls a strong second once again.

In that case, we will likely be faced with a situation where the race for the Republican nomination will be dominated by Donald Trump headed into Super Tuesday and the other major March primaries and the question will be what happens to the rest of the Republican field. Ted Cruz will likely be in the race for some time to come given the fact that he’s already worked to build a network in the Super Tuesday states. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio will likely be tempted to stay in the race until at least Florida unless they’re running out of money. Unless he can capitalize on a surprise in New Hampshire with success elsewhere, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are unlikely to last very long at all. As for the rest of the field, candidates like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and the rest are already dead in the water, they just haven’t realized it yet. What all this means is that, possibly by as early as mid-March the GOP field could be reduced to a field of three or four candidates at the most, with Trump and Cruz battling near the top. At that point, Republican voters in later states will have to ask themselves whether they really want Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz for that matter, to be the face and voice of their party going forward. Of course, if the “establishment” candidates all end up killing each other off, they may have no choice but to choose between one of these two men, neither one of whom seems likely to be a viable General Election candidate in November.



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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. SKI says:

    In the end, the most important factor here will be which candidate has the supporters that are most likely to show up at their caucus site Monday night and do what needs to be done to show their support for their candidate.

    As important will be who the “non-viable” candidates’ supporters go to when their preferred candidate doesn’t meet the 15% threshold in their local caucus.

    If the non-Trump, non-Cruz supporters consistently coalesce around Rubio, he could end up with a plurality win – or at least a close-enough showing to become the preferred establishment non-Trump, non-Cruz choice.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    I think this is the year where “None of the Above” would be the runaway winner.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    It will be nice to find out how Trump and Cruz will poll once that GOP-Gone-Wild show leaves Iowa and starts to run in “real” America.

    I’m guessing that Jeb and Marco are hoping that once the drunken Iowa/New Hampshire binge is over, GOP voters will come around.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:
  5. gVOR08 says:

    I checked Weather Channel which is showing a high of 37 and 20% chance of snow for Des Moines Monday. Pretty mild weather by Iowa standards.

  6. CSK says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    That’s interesting. The other day it was Kasich in second place. And at one point, I think Christie was, although very briefly. (I might be wrong about that.) Kasich got most of the newspaper endorsements, though Christie copped the one from the Union-Leader.

  7. CSK says:


    Manchester, NH is 46 degrees and sunny for next Tuesday. Tropical! Of course, they won’t be voting that day, as I just remembered.

  8. Jen says:

    @CSK: Yup–even the long-range forecast has pushed the snow out to Feb. 10. Currently projecting 36 degrees and partly cloudy for Feb. 9.

    That Emerson College poll is interesting. Bush has been here holding events, but I’m surprised that he’d move from 4% up to second place. It’d be interesting to see the sampling they used.

    I should also note that I can’t be alone in my refusal to even pick up the phone anymore (actually, was just talking to friends about this last weekend–they’ve stopped too). It makes me wonder how accurate the polling is at this point. We’ll know soon.

  9. MBunge says:

    @Neil Hudelson: That poll has a margin of error of 5 points, which makes it slightly more accurate than pinning all the candidate’s names on the wall, slipping on a blindfold and then throwing a dart at them.


  10. CSK says:


    You have my deepest sympathies.

    I wonder if this constant badgering by campaign workers has a net effect quite the opposite of what they intend, that people become so irritated with the non-stop calls and tv ads that they opt out completely.

    Although this is unlikely to happen, it will be interesting to hear and r4ad the rationalizations of the Trump supporters should he lose in Iowa and NH.

  11. Pete S says:

    @CSK: I know anyone who calls my house for a political poll gets bad data as I lie as much as I can. It drives my wife nuts, she would rather just hang up. But I figure that in the long run if they keep publishing nonsense data at least a few of the firms will go out of business and I will get some peace and quiet.

    When someone calls from a campaign, I tell them clearly that if I hear from that campaign again I will not vote for their candidate no matter what the issues are. I also make sure to be clear to them that it is up to them to make sure the message gets to any “independent” outside groups supporting their candidate as well, since if they cannot organize this small action I couldn’t possibly trust them in government. Usually the closer we get to an election the less my phone rings.

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @Jen: It’s things like this that make me want to insist that poll takers and telemarketers of any kind be forced to pay $1 per call. At least.

    If someone’s going to take up my time, I want to be paid for it.

  13. CSK says:

    @Pete S: @grumpy realist:

    I know that pollsters like to be sure of calling at a time when people are most likely to be home, but if you call me when I’m making or eating dinner, I’m very likely to hang up on you. Does this not occur to them?

    On a slightly different note, the Trump campaign is claiming that CNN will broadcast their man’s cheesy exploitation of veterans tonight at Drake University in Iowa. Does that mean that Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon will be giving up their time slots? Because that’s all that’s listed on my tv schedule.

    Oh, and Huckabee and Santorum will be appearing with him after the undercard debate.

  14. Scott says:

    @Pete S: Given today’s anger and willingness to “stick it to the man” I wonder how many others have your approach to answering polls. I’m willing to bet quite a few.

    As for me, we dropped our land line years ago and not much gets through. Of course, it is a blanket policy not to answer any number I don’t recognize. And I trained the family years ago to not respond to the phone while sitting down to dinner.

  15. de stijl says:

    @Pete S:

    I also make sure to be clear to them that it is up to them to make sure the message gets to any “independent” outside groups supporting their candidate as well, since if they cannot organize this small action I couldn’t possibly trust them in government.

    Campaigns cannot coordinate with independent groups; it’s illegal.