cruz and rubio

A new Field California poll was released today and reflects the general trend shown in the national race… with one exception. Ted Cruz has eased into a statistically insignificant lead over Donald Trump.

Cruz, a favorite of evangelicals and tea party conservatives, is the first choice of 25 percent of likely Republican voters in California, according to the poll. Trump stands at 23 percent, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is running third at 13 percent. The difference between Cruz’s and Trump’s numbers is within the poll’s margin of error.

The last poll in California was conducted over a two-week period right after the GOP debate at the Reagan Library and clearly reflects Fiorina’s strong showing there.

california polls rcp

“What you see is that beyond just the horse race, where (Cruz) is in a statistical tie with Trump, he seems to be much better positioned to be the beneficiary of the declining fortunes of other candidates,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “He seems to be the candidate who is best positioned to capture even more support from other candidates as the field winnows.”

As I’ve said many times, at this stage of the game polls are an indicator of trends and are reliable to the extent that we have enough data points in identify trends. While this poll reflects national polling trends, i.e., a two-man contest at the top, followed by Rubio, with Carson collapsing, and Bush and Christie and Kasich fighting for the table scraps, it also points to a fallacy in what is widely assumed to be Rubio’s campaign strategy. That strategy is to concede the everything south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Great Plains to Cruz and rack up wins in Blue/Purple states with large populations. (See Dan McLaughlin’s epic dissection of this strategy here.)

This poll throws a wrench in the works. Cruz’s support in California, a must-win state for Rubio, mirrors national polling. As does Rubio’s. This, at least to me, is not a huge surprise. There was never any reason to assume that GOP primary voters in California were materially different from those in Texas.

Again, this is one data point and far in advance of votes being cast but is makes one clear point. The assumption that Rubio can lose the SEC primary and win the nomination looks a lot shakier today than it did yesterday.

Cheering Ted Cruz onward? Did I miss the virtues of your favorite? Either way, visit my archive.