A new Quinnipiac national poll is out, one of the first since the Iowa caucus, and it shows that there is a wide swatch of Republicans who simply will not line up behind Trump. More importantly, it shows who might be able to corral the voters, as Marco Rubio starts closing the gap. Rubio also proves to be the most well-liked candidate, and the one most believed capable of winning in November.
The poll has support for Trump at 31%, with Cruz still number two at 22%, and Marco Rubio in third with 19%. In December, Trump was at 28%, Cruz at 24%, and Rubio at a mere 12%.
In general election match-ups the picture is even better for Rubio. Clinton trails Rubio by 48 to 41 percent, whereas she runs a tie with Cruz and is leading Trump by a large margin: 46 to 41.
Sanders beats Trump even more handily at a whopping 49 to 39 percent. He is ahead of Cruz with 46 over 42 percent, and ties Rubio at 43%.
Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, notes that the favorables/unfavorables leave two candidates in strong positions for the general election:
"While Trump, Clinton and Cruz wallow in a negative favorability swamp, by comparison, Rubio and Sanders are rock stars"
Here is where Trump really falls down, despite maintaining his lead days after losing in Iowa:
(If Republican or Republican Leaner) Are there any of these candidates you would definitely not support for the Republican nomination for president: Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Gilmore, Kasich, Rubio, or Trump? (Totals may add up to more than 100% because multiple responses were allowed)
That is a man not liked by those who do not choose him first. That definitely matters.
The bottom line is this. Trump is still in the lead, but Republicans believe Rubio has the best shot at beating the Democrat in November. And among those who support a different candidate? Trump is basically not a second choice or, indeed, an option at all.
And this trend is not just evident in this poll. Trump's lead is shrinking in most recent polls, including PPP and of course, New Hampshire. Both also show how unpopular he is outside of his base of support.
So they can spin his current, legitimate lead as the only data point, but the truth is this poll is not good news for Trump, and it's great news for Marco Rubio.