A couple of new polls appeared yesterday for the New Hampshire GOP primary. Overall, the polls showed no major changes but rather served to verify the trends we have seen developing there. Let’s look at the toplines. Keep in mind all the caveats that apply to polling. Don’t get wrapped around the axle on small changes in numbers.
Trump 34, Kasich 6, Cruz 14, Rubio 10, Bush 10, Christie 6, Paul 6, Fiorina 4, Carson 3, Huckabee 1, Santorum 0
Trump 35, Kasich 15, Cruz 10, Rubio 9, Bush 7, Christie 8, Paul 3, Fiorina 5, Carson 1, Huckabee 0, Santorum 0
Trump looks to be in a fairly solid position in first. The question that we’ve all been asking ourselves for a couple of months is who, exactly, are Trump’s supporters? That is the wildcard here. New Hampshire has a modified open primary system. Democrats can’t vote in the GOP primary but independents can. And the well established danger of relying upon independents is that they tend to have to wash their hair or something equally vital on primary day and just don’t show up. So, we won’t know how real Trump’s numbers are until voting takes place though I suspect after Iowa we’ll have more of an idea.
Second place is fuzzy. It could be Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich. A second place finish for Rubio would be a huge shot in the arm for a campaign that seems unable to get its footing. If Cruz takes second, however, the game could be over for Rubio. If you look at the “establishment” lane here, the sum of Rubio-Kasich-Bush-Christie voters remains remarkably stable. I’m not dealing with the ARG poll because it is certifiably bizarre (538.com graded them C- based on 2012 results). Gravis gives them 39%. CNN/WMUR gives them 32%. The factor here is that those four candidates are fighting over one-third of the vote. If Kasich finishes in second place, Rubio is looking at a 4th place finish as his best case scenario. If the Right to Rise attack ads have hit the way they seem to have, Rubio could easily finish behind Bush and Christie.
Third place doesn’t hurt Cruz all that much but it doesn’t help. A third place finish for Kasich keeps him in the race. Third for Rubio with Kasich in fourth probably knocks Christie out of the race because NH is his strongest early state.