In the latest polls, Senator Ted Cruz may be leading in Iowa, but he trails Donald Trump in all the national polls. A new Monmouth University poll, out Monday, shows Trump with a staggering 27 point lead over the second-place Republican Ted Cruz. Trump is the choice of 41 percent of Republicans in that poll to 14 for Cruz. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday gave Trump 27 percent to 22 percent for Cruz. The average of the polls still shows Trump with a comfortable lead.
Republican voters are likely to watch the Republican presidential debate being held in Las Vegas Tuesday at the Venetian. Pundits and Republican activists are curious how candidates will deal with Donald Trump. In addition, they will be watching how Trump treats Ted Cruz and how Cruz and Rubio handle each other.
Trump will be the Republican nominee unless one of the other candidates can consolidate a strong plurality of the voters who have not selected Trump as their choice. The candidates that seem most likely to do that are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Cruz is second choice of the anti-establishment voters and conservatives; Rubio is considered by pundits to be top choice of moderate Republicans. Polls show, however, that Trump is actually the moderates’ first choice. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich are threatening no one.
Pundits, searching for something new to say, are characterizing Cruz as “gaining” and “surging” based on the Iowa poll and the fact Cruz has overtaken Ben Carson for second place. A couple weeks ago, those same pundits were saying similar things about Rubio. The reality is that Cruz may win Iowa, but in the next four primaries, polls show that Trump is well ahead of all Republicans, including Cruz. The only way Cruz can advance is to take out Marco Rubio who, in most polls, is running third.
There is evidence that both Rubio and Cruz are gearing up for the fight. They are both trying to tie the other to Barack Obama. Rubio was on Sunday morning news shows blasting Cruz for trying to cut defense spending, saying he advocated cuts that were even worse than Obama requested. Cruz has repeatedly tried to link Rubio with Obama on immigration.
Rubio wanted to take the gay marriage issue away from Cruz. To out Cruz Cruz, Rubio broke with moderates and said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that “same sex marriage is not a settled issue.” He said he would specifically appoint justices to the Supreme Court who pledged to overturn the court’s ruling on gay marriage. Expect that to come up in Tuesday’s debate.
Both Rubio and Cruz have gained in recent polls, but those gains have come at the expense of Ben Carson, not Trump. Neither can solidify their position unless they can continue to take votes from Carson and take votes from the other. It is just math.
Trump voters have been the most loyal and consistent in the race. He has gone up and down but, except for the latest NBC poll, Trump has never dropped below the total of both Cruz and Rubio added together. In the Monmouth poll, Cruz and Rubio together have 24 percent compared to Trump’s 41 percent. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Trump with 31.3 percent, Rubio and Cruz together have only 29.6 percent, and that factors in the NBC poll.
Establishment Republicans, the Republican National Committee, the Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican Congressional Committee are in panic mode over the rise of Trump because polls show that either leading Democrat would crush him. That, they fear, may cost the GOP seats in Congress. They do not feel any better about Cruz. Rubio is the only one who, according to the polls, would give Clinton a battle, although Bernie Sanders would beat Rubio. Therefore, they may be secretly rooting for Rubio since their other establishment candidates can’t break single digits. Stay tuned.