There has been a lot of polling activity over the past couple of days so, let's take a look at the numbers.
I won't be considering the CNN/WMUR poll at all. If someone has the lack of self respect necessary to release a poll with a 7% margin of error you can't trust their data. And keep in mind that New Hampshire polls are just as crazy as Iowa polls.
To me there a few takeaways from this:
- First, all of these polls were taken after the January 28 GOP debate and, to the extent they are meaningful, they don't indicate that Trump suffered any damage in New Hampshire from not participating. The point being that he might have been hurt in Iowa by Iowans feeling that he'd dumped on them, personally, but the "afraid to debate" issue is obviously bogus.
- Second. If you look at the clustering of poll results, they indicate that Trump has plateaued around 30%. You are no longer seeing the regular hits in the mid-to-high thirties. More on that in a moment.
- Thirdly, the average of Rubio's polling is deceptive. Again if you look at the clustering of the Rubio polls he is on a distinct upward trajectory. This says that the attacks Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are flinging at him simply aren't sticking and I suspect that quite a few Bush and Christie voters will bail on their first choice and vote for Rubio.
What About Iowa?
While New Hampshire and Iowa are different states and have different voting patterns, there were lessons learned from this particular and unique election cycle earlier this week. Let's take a look at Iowa's polls and the final results.
Trump, Cruz, and Rubio all performed outside the best individual poll margin of error on the RCP average. Trump -4.3; Cruz +4.8; Rubio +6.2. Heavy turnout did not, contrary to expectations, help Trump. He was buried in high turnout.
What Does It Mean?
IF, I say again if, New Hampshire voters are following the news and are not voting simply to be contrarian, one has to expect that the "three man race" idea is lurking in their minds. If that is the case then you are going to see Rubio picking up soft Bush, Christie, and Kasich voters, because of the realization that a vote wasted on those candidates helps Trump. Quite honestly, Kasich finishing with below 5% would not be a shock at all.
Given what we saw in Iowa we have to anticipate high turnout. Also, given what we saw in Iowa, we can anticipate a high turnout will not work in Trump's favor. Iowa gave us a hint that Nuremburg-style torchlight rallies don't generate turnout in the way old fashioned campaign organizations do. And there is a lot of evidence that Trump's rallies are drawing fewer and fewer attendees.
If Iowa holds and Trump under performs by 5 points and Rubio's surge continues, Trump will spend all day on Twitter next Wednesday accusing Rubio of stealing New Hampshire.