Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now leading the critical Iowa Caucus race according to a new poll released today from Monmounth University. The poll is significant in that it is the first to show anyone other than Donald Trump leading in Iowa since polling began in earnest in this summer. A Cruz victory in Iowa could potentially propel him to more victories in later primary states.
According to the poll Cruz leads the Republican field in Iowa with 24 percent of the vote. Donald Trump comes in second with 19 percent of the vote followed by Marco Rubio in third with 17 percent. Ben Carson places fourth with 13 percent, but is really the biggest loser according to Monmouth. Carson was polling at 32 percent in a Monmouth poll released in late October. This new poll has Carson’s support dropping by 19 percent, and it appears that Cruz is the major beneficiary of Carson’s collapse within Iowa.
According to Monmouth Cruz, Trump, Carson, and Rubio are the only major competitors in Iowa right now. All other candidates, a group that includes Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and Chris Christie, are polling at 6 percent or below.
The Monmouth poll was conducted from December 3-December 6, 2015. The sample includes 425 registered Republican voters in Iowa. That is a fairly small sample, and the poll has a large margin-of-error equal to +/- 4.5 percentage points, which means that Trump, Carson, or Rubio could theoretically be in the lead adjusting for the poll’s margin-of-error in their favor.
Analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight gives Monmouth an A- rating in his ranking of pollsters based on partially on Monmouths’s performance over 31 released surveys.
The poll matches up well with other polls that show Cruz gaining momentum in Iowa while Carson falls off. A Quinnipiac University poll released in late November had Trump with 28 percent in Iowa compared to 23 percent for Cruz and 18 percent for Carson.
A Real Clear Politics average of three polls released over the last three weeks has Trump leading the Republican field with the support of 24.7 percent of Iowa Republican voters. Cruz now comes in second with 22.7 percent of the Iowa Republican vote, and Carson places third with 16.7 percent.
Many predicted that as more voters started paying attention and the primary contests drew near Donald Trump’s support would dwindle and the more established, traditional candidates would take the lead. So far Trump has maintained and even strengthened his lead nationally among Republican voters. However, in the past candidates like Trump have led nationally in November or December only to lose support later. In 2012 at this time Herman Cain led the Republican race, according to the polls, with 25.2 percent support and in 2008 the polls had Rudy Giuliani in the lead with 30.1 percent support. In 2012 Mitt Romney ended up winning the Republican Party nomination and in 2008 John McCain eventually won the nod.
This new Monmouth University poll is great news for Cruz, and an ominous sign for Trump and Carson. Trump will likely need to win either Iowa or New Hampshire to maintain his support going into the bigger primary states that follow. The good news for Trump is that polls still have him leading in New Hampshire by a large margin.