Trump Still Leading The GOP Race After Rubio Withdrawal

One week after Marco Rubio left the race, Donald Trump's hold on the lead in the GOP Presidential race seems as solid as ever.

Donald Trump Ted Cruz John Kasich

New polling suggests that the shrinking of the GOP field in the wake of last weeks primaries in Florida and elsewhere has done little to stop Donald Trump’s rise in the polls, that he is likely to continue to lead in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination all the way to the convention in Cleveland, and that it remains highly likely that he will walk into the convention with enough delegates to claim the nomination.

First up, there’s a new poll from CBS News and The New York Times that shows Trump’s support has reached one of its highest points yet even as Republicans express embarrassment about the way the race has gone on their side of the aisle:

Alarmed by the harsh attacks and negative tone of their presidential contest, broad majorities of Republican primary voters view their party as divided and a source of embarrassment and think that the campaign is more negative than in the past, according to a New York Times/CBS News national poll released on Monday.

The dismay has not set back their leading candidate, however. While about four in 10 Republican voters disapprove of how Donald J. Trump has handled the violence at some of his rallies, Mr. Trump has also picked up the most support recently as several rivals have left the race. Forty-six percent of primary voters said they would like to see Mr. Trump as the party’s nominee, more than at any point since he declared his candidacy in June. Twenty-six percent favored Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and 20 percent backed Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

Fully three-quarters of Republican primary voters expect Mr. Trump to be their party’s nominee.

There are similar numbers in the latest poll from CNN and ORC International:

Donald Trump continues to be the top choice of Republican voters in the race for their party’s nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

The poll finds little appetite for replacing the delegate leader and front-runner with another candidate at the convention or through a third-party run, but most of those opposed to Trump’s candidacy continue to pine for another option.

With the field whittled to just three candidates, 47% of Republicans say they’d most like to see Trump win their party’s nomination, about the same as the 49% who said they would be most likely to support him in February.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz follows at 31%, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich the preferred choice of 17% of GOP voters.

Trump tops the enthusiasm race as well, with 40% saying they would be enthusiastic about a Trump candidacy compared with 28% who would be that excited about Cruz and 19% about Kasich.


The Republican race has been more volatile, as the field of candidates vying to be the GOP’s main Trump alternative has shrunk. Some, including 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have called for anti-Trump voters within the party to coalesce around whichever candidate offers the best chance to beat Trump in their home state, in the hopes of preventing Trump from gathering the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the nomination. That would leave the nomination unsettled heading in to the Republican Party’s national convention in July.

While the overall findings suggest few Republicans want to replace their party’s delegate leader with someone else, those views vary widely based on whether a voter prefers Trump or not.

Six-in-10 Republican voters overall say that if no candidate wins a majority of delegates to the Republican convention through the primaries and caucuses, delegates should vote for the candidate who had the most support through those votes. That figure stands at 82% among Trump backers, but just 40% among those who do not back Trump.

Most Republicans say Kasich should end his run for the nomination now that he cannot win a majority of delegates in the primaries (70% overall say so), but that sentiment is even stronger among Trump’s backers. More than 8-in-10 Trump supporters, 84%, say Kasich should drop out of the race, but among those who aren’t backing Trump, that figure dips to 58%.

Just 35% overall say they want to see another Republican run as a third party candidate if Trump wins the Republican nomination. Among non-Trump backers, however, 51% want to see another Republican get in the ring as a third party candidate. The non-Trump supporters opposed to such a move say they feel that way more because it would lead to a Democratic win (38%) than because they would be comfortable with Trump leading the Republican ticket (10%).

One thing Trump’s supporters and those who support other candidates can agree on: Broad majorities in both groups say the party’s nominee should be one of the three remaining candidates, even if none of them capture those 1,237 delegates.

Still, few see the road ahead as an easy one for the eventual nominee. Just 8% see the Republican Party as united. That’s lower than the 22% of Democrats who felt that way in June 2008 after a long fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for that party’s nomination. Nearly half of Republicans now — 46% — say the party is currently divided and will remain so in November, including 52% of those Republicans who are not backing Donald Trump.

As do the latest numbers from NBC News and Survey Monkey which shows Trump leading with 45% support, followed by Ted Cruz at 24% and John Kasich at 16%. Looking at the poll averages, Trump now has a 12.6 point lead over Cruz at 40% to 27.4%, followed by John Kasich at 18.6% according to RealClearPolitics while Pollster gives Trump an 18.2 point lead with a 45.3% average to Ted Cruz’s 27.1%, followed by Kasich at 15.4%. The one thing all of these numbers show us, of course, is that the departure of Florida Senator Marco Rubio from the race has only had a minimal impact on the state of the race at the national level, with some of Rubio’s support going to Ted Cruz but not nearly enough for him to really close the gap with Trump, a fact which is going to make it more difficult for Cruz to catch up to Trump in the delegate count going forward. If that continues, and it’s almost guaranteed to as long as John Kasich remains in the race than Trump would still seem to be able to continue winning delegates going forward to the point where he will either have the majority going forward or he will be so close to that majority that it will be very difficult for Republicans to credibly deny him the nomination.

All of this comes as Republicans in Utah and Arizona get their chance to add their voice to the process today in contests that will be the last until well after Easter. In Utah, Republicans are holding a caucus while their neighbors to the south in Arizona hold a primary. Polling has been relatively minimal in both states, but what we have seen makes it appears as though Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will trade wins in the two contests, but the impact on the delegate count could be quite different. Arizona is a “Winner Take All” state, so the winner there will take all of that states 58 delegates. Utah, on the other hand, apportions its 40 delegates proportionally unless someone gets above 50% of the vote. Current polls out of Utah have Ted Cruz leading, which isn’t surprising given both his relative success in caucus states and the fact that his Christian conservatism is a good fit for Utah’s Mormon population, but there hasn’t been nearly enough polling to indicate where the race stands there. Should Cruz fail to break 50%, he’ll have to share at least some of the 40 delegates with Donald Trump and John Kasich. In Arizona meanwhile, the minimal polling out of that state has Trump with a clear lead headed into today’s primary and most analysts expect him to win there easily, a win which would help him significantly in the delegate hunt. After today, though, there aren’t any significant contests until the Wisconsin Primary on April 5th after which there is more than a two week break before primaries at the end of April in a host of Mid-Atlantic states, including New York and Pennsylvania, where Trump is likely to do quite well. In other words, we’re heading into a phase of the race that is likely to be quite favorable to Donald Trump, and quite problematic for Ted Cruz, and it’s likely that by the time it’s over Donald Trump will be even closer to the majority he needs to become the Republican nominee for President.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, 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. walt moffett says:

    Better get used to hearing President Hillary Clinton and hearing Republicans wailing in the dark.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    AIPAC denounced Trumps speech.
    The WaPo said that Trump as President poses a radical (yyuuuugggge) risk to this nation.
    Trumps list of Foreign Policy consultants has been roundly panned as fools and bigots and conspiracy theorists.
    White nationalists have opened a Trump hotline to aid comb-over supporters who have been bullied and are emotional.
    TRUMP 2016

  3. gVOR08 says:

    @walt moffett: One may hope. The out party is never more than a scandal or crisis away from being in. We need to get through 7-1/2 months without a major war, bank collapse, stock market collapse, big terror attack in the US, sex scandal, financial scandal, health crisis, or indictment. The thought of President Trump terrifies me, no matter how slim the odds. The only consolation is that Cruz would be worse.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Oh…I forgot about Elizabeth Warren pointing out what a loser Trump is. So he called her an Indian.

  5. CSK says:

    @C. Clavin:

    No, he actually called her a fake Indian, and that she only was hired by the Harvard Law School because she pretended to be Indian.

    Trump the Insult Candidate has no other means of responding to his critics, Republican or Democratic.

  6. Grewgills says:

    I’m feeling sadly vindicated in my prediction from an earlier thread.
    Before Rubio dropped out of the race the RCP average stood at:
    Trump 32%
    Cruz 26%
    Kasich 17.5%
    Rubio 19%
    I predicted that the plurality of Rubio’s support would go to Trump. After Rubio dropped out the race the RCP average stands at:
    Trump 41.5/% +9.5%
    Cruz 28% +2%
    Kasich 20% +2.5%

  7. walt moffett says:


    Clinton has this in the bag, she has Wall Street behind her and her team is quite adept at assembling disparate factions into voters while having the media on spin cycle. Yet, there is polling by CBS/NYT that suggests the voters are not pleased with either front runner.

  8. Jen says:

    @C. Clavin: The WaPo editorial board interview with Donald Trump was astonishing/incredible/insane to read.

    That someone that clueless has come this far in the process vindicates pretty much every instinct the founding fathers had about direct democracy.

  9. J-Dub says:

    @Jen: in reference to the WaPo interview, The Donald is clearly just misunderstood. And by that I mean nobody could possibly understand anything he said.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    This from Trump is fwcking amazing in it’s cravenness, it’s ignorance, and the danger it poses:

    “Look, I think we have to change our law on the waterboarding thing, where they can chop off heads and drown people in cages, in heavy steel cages and we can’t water board…We have to change our laws and we have to be able to fight at least on almost equal basis. We have laws that we have to obey in terms of torture. They have no laws whatsoever that they have to obey.”

    The WaPo was correct when they said that Trump would be a “radical risk”.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    But Trump is not the only fool in the Republican Party, by far….

  12. C. Clavin says:

    It is both shocking, and completely predictable, that this is the best the Republican Party can do.

  13. J-Dub says:

    For many years now, the Republican Party has been doing the equivalent of raising chimps in their home. You shouldn’t be surprised when one of them eats your face off.