We've been waiting for some post-New Hampshire polling in South Carolina, and we just got a blizzard of it dropped on us all at once. We have one from SC House GOP, one from Republican firm Gravis, one from garbage pollster ARG, and one from possibly fake pollster PPP.
Two of the four (SC House GOP and PPP) were taken after Saturday's debate, but they are necessarily single day samples and thus a bit suspect. Quite frankly, I don't trust this polling a lot, but all four polls present a pretty stable picture of the race thus far. Here are some conclusions that we can probably draw with some degree of certainty:
- Trump has not received a bounce from New Hampshire. He was in the mid-30s (or higher) in South Carolina before New Hampshire, he remains there now. All four of the new polls have him between 33-37%.
- Rubio is now tied with Cruz for second in South Carolina, or very close to it. In one poll, he trails Cruz 23-19. In two others, Rubio and Cruz are tied. In another, Rubio leads Cruz 14-12.
- Trump probably did not suffer significantly from his debate meltdown. This is not a tremendous surprise. On the other hand, his ongoing departure into loony-land is probably preventing him from picking up any new support whatsoever, as you would expect a front runner to have done after winning New Hampshire convincingly.
- The Cruz-Rubio tandem is creating space between themselves and the rest of the field. Jeb Bush absolutely has to defeat Marco Rubio in South Carolina, or at least make it close. One poll (SC House GOP) shows him doing that, the rest show him falling significantly behind. If he loses to both Rubio and Cruz by 8-10 points, as the polls suggest, he is done for.
- Carson continues to be in last, and should drop out.
- Other than ARG, no pollster shows Kasich gaining any traction at all in South Carolina, and he will likely finish just above Carson.
If Rubio does sneak up and take second place away from Cruz in South Carolina, that will fundamentally change the race. South Carolina is expected to be friendlier territory to Cruz than Rubio, and Team Rubio was hoping really only to beat Bush in South Carolina. Beating Cruz as well may have the effect of consolidating the field sooner rather than later.