The following is an excerpt from William Saletan | February 10, 2016 | Slate.com |
A week ago, the Republican establishment thought it had found a savior. Sen. Marco Rubio, fresh from his third-place finish in Iowa, had momentum and was doing well in general-election polls. Mainstream Republicans were ready to coalesce behind him. The prospect of having to nominate Sen. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump—who finished first and second in Iowa, respectively—seemed to be receding.
New Hampshire dashed these hopes. Trump won big, and Rubio fell to fifth place. The Florida senator trailed two other mainstream candidates, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Rubio even lost to Cruz, who came in third despite investing only $500,000 in an inhospitable state. That result, combined with the terrain ahead, spells big trouble for the GOP. Polls in South Carolina, which votes next on Feb. 20, make a strong case that Trump and Cruz will finish first and second, shutting out Rubio and Bush again. The Trump-Cruz stranglehold on the nomination is tightening.
In the past month, three public surveys have examined the race in South Carolina. All three were taken between Jan. 15 and Jan. 23: a CBS News/YouGov survey, a Marist poll for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, and an OpinionSavvy poll for the Augusta Chronicle. In all three polls, Trump led by a wide margin, and Cruz came in second. The average result was 36 percent for Trump, 20 percent for Cruz, 13 percent for Rubio, and 10 percent for Bush. Kasich barely registered at 2 percent. The Chronicle poll tested a scenario similar to where we are now: a five-man field of Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Ben Carson. Given those options, 32 percent of South Carolina Republicans chose Trump, 18 percent chose Cruz, 13 percent chose Bush, and 11 percent chose Rubio.
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