The latest poll of likely Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania show Ohio Governor John Kasich trailing businessman Donald Trump by only 3 points. The latest poll from Franklin & Marshall College took place between March 14-20, 2016. The poll surveyed 312 registered Republican voters, and questioned them on more than just the presidential preference of the respondent. Interviews were taken over both landline and cell phone, in addition to online, depending on the respondent’s preference. Trump continues to lead in Pennsylvania, and has since October of 2015, at 33%, followed closely by Kasich at 30%, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in third place with 20%. Approximately 1 in every 6 voters or 17% remain undecided regarding their presidential preference at this time.
Kasich’s support in the Keystone State has increased significantly from January, when Kasich polled at 3%. Since then the percentage difference between Kasich and Trump has now fallen within the survey’s margin of error of +/- 5.4%. Trump has the highest unfavorable ratings of any Republican remaining in the campaign at 41%, while Cruz comes in at a close second at 32%. Compare that to the two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s favorable rating is 20 points higher than her Republican opponents at 67%, while Sanders is 64%. These numbers could be very important in the general election in November as respondents placed the character of the candidate as the main reason why they would choose to vote a certain way, and placing the candidates character higher in importance than even the economy.
The survey demonstrates that Cruz is not connecting with Pennsylvanians as well as Kasich or Trump, and that Kasich’s victory in Ohio has bolstered his support among registered Republicans in Pennsylvania. While the numbers represent that Kasich is gaining on Trump, a high voter turnout is definitely going to favor Trump over Kasich. If the turnout were to be low, then such a scenario will favor Kasich.
This poll sends an important message about Ted Cruz, and his inability to win voters in Pennsylvania over to his campaign in significant numbers. The scenario would leave Cruz even farther behind Trump, and has the potential to pull his numbers down in states like Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Indiana. It is apparent that in Pennsylvania and in the coal belt, Kasich has very strong support, from Erie and Pittsburgh in the western part of the state, to the Pocono and Alleghany mountains in the central portion of the state. The farther that you travel eastbound, the higher the percentage of voters who are going to vote for Trump.
As of today, March 29, 2016, these poll results brings very bad news to Ted Cruz. Ted has been claiming that he is the only other Republican who can still beat Donald Trump before the convention. The only problem with that is that Cruz’s numbers are not high enough to suggest he will get anything beyond a third place finish in Pennsylvania.
For the first time this year, this race is coming down to a contest between two candidates: Trump, and Kasich; not Cruz. Failing to win in Pennsylvania would demonstrate that Cruz does not have universal appeal, and could mean the beginning of the end for the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. If Cruz comes in third place in Pennsylvania, his chances to reach the 1,237 delegate threshold to win the Republican nomination become very close to zero at that point. Essentially, should Cruz wind up with the kind of result estimated by this poll, he would then officially have no chance at the nomination; unless Trump fails to get to 1,237 delegates himself.
At this point in the campaign, the number of delegates that Donald Trump needs to secure the nomination keep falling by large numbers; while at the same time, Cruz has reached the point where he must win 75% of all remaining states in order to win the Republican nomination, and in a three man race with Kasich and Trump, that goal is substantially and virtually unachievable for Cruz. In a divided electorate, the more voters you add to the mix, the less likely that a second place candidate is going to win states by the kinds of margins necessary to give Cruz the nomination.
Kasich is making a big play for a contested convention and his name on several ballots at the Republican nominating convention, in July at Cleveland, Ohio, should it come to that. At this point, we are very far from having a contested convention, and every time that Trump wins a state, that possibility becomes more and more remote. Should Kasich manage to win Pennsylvania, and should the nominating process go to multiple ballots at the convention, Kasich has a good chance of winning over Cruz and Trump in this scenario.