Hot off the presses today is the latest poll of New Hampshire voters for the state's primary on February 9th. Today's Monmouth University poll shows that Trump, unsurprisingly, still has an iron grip on the lead, claiming 32% of the Granite State's Republicans, compared to 26% back in November. If that were the only thing notable about the poll, then it might not be all that newsworthy, but digging down into it, we see that Ted Cruz has been gaining in the state. As the poll explains:
The next tier of candidates includes Ted Cruz (14%), John Kasich (14%), and Marco Rubio (12%), with Chris Christie (8%), Carly Fiorina (5%), Jeb Bush (4%), Rand Paul (4%), and Ben Carson (3%) trailing behind. While the order of placement has shifted, all of these candidates are within a few percentage points of their showing two months ago, with Cruz showing the biggest gain of the second tier – 5 points since November.
Since the poll's margin of error is 4.8%, we can basically consider Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich to be tied for second, but Cruz's has shown a solid gain in support since November. This chart is also worth noting:
Ted Cruz's rise has not just been among those who have him as their first choice. He's seen a massive gain among those who have him as their second choice, well outside of the margin of error. Remember, a large part of Mitt Romney's success in gaining the Republican nomination in 2012 was due to the fact that he was consistently GOP voters' second choice, no matter who their favorite was.
At any rate, it's important to place these results in context. Here's a look* at poll averages (based on RealClearPolitics) in the states of New Hampshire and Iowa as well as nationally have played out since just before Christmas:
There have been no huge upheavals since December 21 of last year, but while he's still holding his own, Cruz has still been victim to a small decline in support overall. Meanwhile, overall Trump's support has largely been stagnant everywhere but New Hampshire. The biggest winner here is Rubio, although it's hard to call a change of 0.9% overall anything huge.
A month is a long time in politics. I don't think we'll see Trump lose his lead in New Hampshire, but there is plenty of room for support to swing from one candidate to another. One of the most important numbers from the poll is that only 1/3 of Granite Staters have are firmly locked into a candidate. A good quarter of the state's Republican primary voters still describe themselves as up for grabs, meaning there's plenty of space for Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich to get a firm grab on second place, which is the real race here. If Cruz or Rubio can do that, then it will set him up well for the primaries down the road, especially in South Carolina.
*=This chart was provided for me by Dan McLaughlin.