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S.C.: After Haley endorsement, Rubio pulls even with Cruz; pressure on Bush?

February 20th, 2016, 5:43am by Sam Wang

(Guardian coverage)

It seems likely that Donald Trump is headed for another win today – but a closer one than I would have expected even a few days ago. In 4 polls taken February 16-19*, the medians are Trump 33%, Rubio 20.5%, Cruz 18.5%, Bush 9.5%, Kasich 8.5%, Carson 6%. Rubio may do even better than these numbers would indicate, since his surge is quite recent.

The graph at left shows the running median, which I estimated day by day. In a significant trend in the last week, many Trump and Cruz supporters got on the fence after the debate on the 13th, which was an insult-laden spectacle. Trump has slowly leaked 5.5 points of support and Cruz has lost 2 points (and Kasich gained a few points).

Then, on Wednesday February 17th, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Rubio. Immediately after, Rubio surged by 5.5 percentage points compared with 7 pre-endorsement polls, Feb. 13-17 sample, showing a median of 15.0 ± 0.5%.

Even the newest polls still have at least half their sample coming before the Haley endorsement. So Rubio will likely outperform them, and maybe get into the mid-20s. Trump is in the news again for going after Pope Francis on the 18th an unbelievable event all by itself. I think Rubio is headed for a strong second-place finish. Seems like he’s got some life in him yet.

Trump will probably still hang on to first place. That should give him at least 44 of South Carolina’s 50 delegates. Given the all-or-none nature of delegate assignment (29 statewide delegates and 7 Congressional districts of 3 delegates each), Rubio could pick off a district or two.

Haley’s bigger impact might be driving Jeb Bush out of the race. If she had endorsed Bush, the results would probably look more like a four-man race. The ongoing presence of Bush, Kasich, and Carson is a drain on Cruz and Rubio because of delegate-assignment rules in the next few weeks, which often have a 15-20% threshold requirement. The more candidates remain, the more likely it is that Trump can get a majority of the delegates between now and Super Tuesday on March 1st. I previously wrote that Super Tuesday is a deadline for the Republican Presidential field to narrow. If Haley helps accomplish that, it’s a substantial contribution to her party’s Establishment wing.

*The nominal one-sigma uncertainties on the medians are 1.6-2.0% for Trump/Rubio/Cruz/Kasich, 0.7% for Bush/Carson. I excluded a Harper (R) poll that did not have any sample post-Feb. 17th.

Tags: 2016 Election · governors · President

29 Comments so far ↓

  • Anthony Shifflett

    It would be pretty interesting to see Rubio pull this off. My people all live in SC, and I have some Rubio and Trump supporters in my family.

    If Cruz finishes behind Rubio in third, what then is his path for victory Sam? I see this as killing him more than anyone. If Rubio finishes second, then to me that’s big news. Means Cruz has no real appeal outside of some evangelicals, and even then it’s only some of them.

    I think Kasich will stay in until Ohio.

    • Josh

      Cruz’s path to victory, if he has one, will be difficult. He needs to do very well in states like SC which are conservative and evangelical. There are a whole bunch of those on Super Tuesday–Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Georgia–so Cruz will probably have to win most or all of those states in order to stay on track to winning the nomination.

      But Cruz has a bigger problem, which is that many of the states where he wouldn’t be expected to perform well are both full of delegates AND are winner-take-all. By contrast, many states that should be more favorable for Cruz are not winner-take-all, so that even if he wins them, he’ll only get a plurality, as opposed to most or all, of the delegates at stake.

      My hunch is that Cruz is in the race until the end, and so that will probably have some (perhaps major) consequences, but unless he significantly overperforms today and on Super Tuesday, he’s probably not going to win the nomination.

  • Olav Grinde

    Sam, what are the religious demographics of South Carolina – and other states going forward? And have there been any polls specifically evaluating the choices of Catholic voters?

    I wonder whether Pope Francis’ rebuke, and Trump’s stunning reaction, has hurt Trump among Catholics. Or to what degree this my actually helped him among Anti-Papist voters.

    Curiously, Ben Carson doesn’t even figure in the HuffPo graph above. Why the curious omission? Except for claims from the Cruz campaign, I don’t recall reading that Carson has withdrawn…

    • Sam Wang

      S.C. is 33% evangelical. A lot like Iowa Republicans.
      Most Congressional districts there are similar to one another, except District 1, which tilted toward Romney over Gingrich in 2012. Linked from my other S.C. post.

    • Olav Grinde

      Yes, but astonishingly the statistics to which you link only mention Catholic once – with regards to New Hampshire. Nothing on Catholic voters in South Carolina or elsewhere.

    • Sam Wang

      That’s true. Besides, the current Pope is on the liberal side. The main issue with a public feud is that it just looks unseemly. Though the more I think about it, it’s part of his appeal.

    • Matt McIrvin

      The HuffPo chart generator lets you exclude whichever candidates you want. Presumably Sam thought he’d just clutter up the graph. In SC, he was in second place back in November but ended up just below Kasich.

  • Olav Grinde

    Meanwhile, today is the day of the Nevada caucuses. Almost under the radar… Vox has a rather informative article on this.

    • bks

      The only NV result that changes things would be for Sanders to win a supermajority. I hope he does, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • 538 Refugee

    If the movement for Rubio is Haley’s endorsement will it carry much beyond the state? She may be considered a ‘rising star’ in the party but she doesn’t have Palin’s appeal, at least not yet. If he fails to take many delegates will he get any of the benefit from the ‘band wagon’ effect since he’ll still have lost big where it counts.

    I wonder if Haley endorsed Rubio because they both wear ‘heels’?

    • JayBoy2k

      Question 1: Is there a tradition or precedent for a candidate picking his VP candidate this early in the race? Basically. not earlier than July after the nominee has it wrapped up.
      Question 2: Imagine the GOP race reduced to a two-team race, Rubio–Kasich challenging Trump–Cruz. What then?
      From Sam’s chart above: Rubio-Kasich start with 30% and Trump-Cruz with 53%. Sounds like a big advantage,
      Question #3 Naming your Cabinet?? I would think that it would not make much difference for a Nominee who is hard left or hard right — You would not tend to moderate and you already have the votes of your base.
      Maybe, if the nominee is a moderate (Kasich, Trump ?) and announces his cabinet which is a mix of moderates and slightly left or right of moderate, that nominee could attract more independents but could also lose enthusiasm in the base.

  • A New Jersey Farmer

    If Bernie can make Nevada competitive, then Rubio and Cruz can make the future GOP contests competitive. Trump is still commanding only about a third of the GOP vote, which is enough to pile on delegates, but the primary season is full of shifts and turns and the south can be just as friendly to two real southerners as it can to a NY real estate magnate.

    • bks

      Do Republicans in the south think of Cruz and Rubio as real southerners?

    • Mark F.

      Sanders needs to hold Clinton to about +5 in NV and +15 in SC, I would say. He still needs to do much better with blacks, women and minorities. There isn’t much time as a lot of delegates will be given out in the next 3-4 weeks.

    • A New Jersey Farmer

      Probably not real southerners, but certainly more so than Trump.

  • Mark F.

    Rubio should probably talk to Kasich about putting him on as VP . A Florida/Ohio ticket would be perfect. I think Jeb Bush will be done after tomorrow, as will Carson. They need to get this down to a 3 man race before Super Tuesday to avoid disaster.

    • Olav Grinde

      Question 1: Is there a tradition or precedent for a candidate picking his VP candidate this early in the race?

      Question 2: Imagine the GOP race reduced to a two-team race, Rubio–Kasich challenging Trump–Cruz. What then?

      After the convention, I wonder whether a party nominee might seek advantage by announcing his his/her entire cabinet – a true super-team – and sending them on the campaign trail.

      This has never been done. Thoughts?

    • Kevin

      That’s not how it would be done. A commitment would be made, and Kasich would fade back and be sure not to make hostile moves towards Rubio. Might have happened already.

    • A New Jersey Farmer

      Still early for talk of VP. I agree that Bush and Carson should leave if they don’t do well today, but the general rule is that candidates stay in one more primary than they should.

    • Josh

      I guess the counterargument to this would be that, if you’re Jeb, if you can wait out Kasich (who has less money), you’ll pick up a whole bunch of his support. And SC is a pretty conservative state; imagine Jeb in MA or MN or VT on Super Tuesday, without Kasich to siphon off votes. It’s not inconceivable he could get more than 20% in those states and a whole bunch of others.

  • Mark F.

    I see no path to victory for Cruz, despite a good campaign. He’s a Bible Belt candidate.

  • Nick Warino

    Here is a SurveyMonkey online poll for Feb 18-19.

    Trump 44
    Rubio 22
    Cruz 15

    Not sure how reliable SurveyMonkey is. I believe they sometimes do polls for NBC.

  • Kevin

    It may sitll remain to be seen whether Rubio is a good candidate, but he would make an appalling president. Matthew Yglesias points out that Trump’s voters may not be just people who like his schtick on TV, but people who rationally prefer him to the other leading Republican candidates. This is part of why I think his poll dominance will be resilient enough to survive a consolidation if Jeb gets knocked out, Cruz wounded, and Kasich, as Mark F. suggests, is bought off with a VP promise. Candidly, if I were forced to pick the next president (not just nominee) out of the top 4 Republican poll leaders, I would pick Trump.

  • 538 Refugee

    CBS reconnected with subjects of a recent poll and asked them if they had changed.

    “The Florida senator has been strengthened overall, however, by defectors from Bush and Kasich. Only 68 percent of former Kasich supporters still intend to vote for him, while 26 percent now support Rubio, and 5 support Cruz. Bush retained only 58 percent of his voters from last week. Thirty-three percent now say they are in Rubio’s camp, and 8 percent say they’ll vote for Cruz. Neither Kasich nor Bush absorbed significant support from their rivals.”

  • mbmxyz

    SC is about 8% Roman Catholic according to Gallup poll tracking religion by state. Wikipedia says about 7% of SC residents are Roman Catholic.

  • bks

    The pollsters look to have done okay for both NV and SC. Will Trump get all 50 SC delegates?

  • Ron

    I like how people are STILL Alluding to “”will Rubio Pull this off”” when in reality he has yet to pull a single thing off

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