Two new polls are out. All the usual caveats apply about what, if anything, the numbers mean apply. Looking at these polls and other national polls there might me a couple of interesting developments. First, let’s get the toplines and the history.
Georgia is an open primary, which makes the numbers much more fluid, that takes place in six weeks on March 1. It was conducted by Fox5 out of Atlanta:
Trump 33, Cruz 23, Rubio 8, Carson 7, Bush 7, Fiorina 4, Kasich 4, Paul 4, Huckabee 3, Christie 4, Santorum 0.
This is all the Georgia polling:
To me there are three takeaways from this. First, Trump’s lead is the smallest it has been since Ben Carson lit himself on fire back in late-October/early-November. His absolute percentage has flatlined and he is losing ground to Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is gaining strength and has posted a gain outside the margin of error in the same Fox5 polls taken one month apart. Bush’s strategy of tearing Rubio down seems to be working. Rubio had a loss outside of the margin of error in two consecutive polls by the same pollster and Bush seems to be slowly ascending.
Florida is a closed primary that takes place two weeks after Georgia on March 15. Georgia is a key state for not only the size of its delegate haul but because both Bush and Rubio are Floridians. Weak finishes there will probably take both men out of the race. The poll was conducted by the Florida Times-Union:
Trump 31, Cruz 19, Rubio 12, Bush 13, Carson 7, Christie 4, Fiorina 4, Kasich 3, Paul 3, Huckabee 2, Santorum 0
This is all the Florida polling:
Just like in Georgia, Trump seems to be beyond his peak. He shows a decline outside the margin of error from his late-October/mid-November apex. Cruz is solidly in second about 10 points behind Trump. My sensing is that he’s much closer because Florida is a closed primary, the sample is likely voters, and if my gut feeling is true, that much of Trump’s support comes from voters who do not have a history of primary voting, the final tally of Cruz, Rubio, and Bush will look better than it does here. The real interesting story is in the Bush-Rubio match up. The Right to Rise attacks on Rubio seem to be telling here as well as in Georgia. Rubio’s drop and Bush’s rise is outside the margin of error and they are in a statistical tie. But as we get closer to voting, Rubio’s movement is all in the wrong direction. For Bush, this is a too-little-too-late award. Finishing third or fourth in his home state would be a repudiation. To a certain extent Rubio has the same problem. Unless Trump suffers an epic collapse, Rubio is going to finish third or worse in Florida. It is hard to see how he continues as a credible candidate after that.
There are two salient trends in these polls. First, Trump is showing weakness. If he has a little bad luck in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina the Georgia and Florida races could change drastically. Hope, however, is not a method. Second, Bush has succeeded in damaging Rubio which is something he should be ashamed of.