Is Trump Dropping and His Rivals Closing?

One day before the Michigan primary, a Monmouth University poll showed a dramatic Trump drop. And a new national poll shows his rivals closing.

By Al Perrotta Published on March 7, 2016

Tuesday’s primary in Michigan is set to have a dramatic finish. And now a new national poll shows Donald Trump’s support eroding while his rivals edge closer, with Ted Cruz moving to within single digits of the front-runner. That same national poll shows Cruz outperforming Trump by 13 points in a one-on-one matchup, and Rubio besting Trump by 6 points head to head.

It’s also notable that the poll, by ABC/Washington Post, was taken March 3-6, meaning one of the four polling days came before last Thursday’s GOP debate that appears to have damaged Trump. This may mean Trump’s actual lead is even smaller than the four-day poll average indicates.*

In the past 48-hours or so, Donald Trump’s once comfortable lead in Michigan has grown not-so-comfortable, according to a new Monmouth University poll out Monday. Said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, “Trump’s support may be dropping, while Kasich’s star could be rising.”

On initial blush, the poll numbers look good for the controversial front-runner. It shows Trump holding a 13 point lead ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz, with 36% of support from likely GOP voters. Cruz has 23%, with Kasich close behind at 21%. Marco Rubio is at 13%.

But look what happened over the weekend in the wake of Thursday night’s shall we say “uncomfortable” debate:

In interviews conducted Thursday and Friday, Trump held a solid lead with 39% support compared to 22% for Cruz, 17% for Kasich, and 14% for Rubio. The race was much tighter in Saturday and Sunday interviews at 32% for Trump, 26% for Kasich, 25% for Cruz, and 12% for Rubio.

In other words, Trump’s lead was cut in half over the weekend, with Kasich jumping nine points. Cruz also picked up three points.

Coming on the heels of Saturday’s stunning results in Kansas, where Trump’s 6-point pre-caucus poll lead turned into a 25-point defeat, a loss in Maine, and much closer races in Kentucky and Louisiana than predicted, the Michigan poll raises the question whether the bloom is off the billionaire’s rose.

Here’s another nugget from the poll that suggests Tuesday’s primary is very much up in the air: Forty-nine percent GOP voters in Michigan have either already cast their ballots or are completely decided on a candidate. That means over half are either undecided or admit they can still change their minds.

Fifty-nine delegates are at stake in Michigan, doled out proportionally between the candidates earning at least 15% of the vote. It is an open primary, meaning registered voters can chose whether to participate in the Democratic or Republican primary regardless of party affiliation. The polls open at 7 a.m. Eastern.

Mano-a-Mano

The Monmouth poll also tested how Cruz and Rubio would do matched up with Trump mano-a-mano. The hypothetical Trump-Rubio head-to-head fight is a virtual deadlock, with Rubio edging Trump 46%-45%. Cruz does even better, beating Trump head to head 48% to 41%.

Even if Trump wins Tuesday and goes on to win the nomination, he has another battle on his hands: Convincing those who didn’t support him in the primaries to support him in the general election. Only 7 in 10 Michigan Republicans say they would vote for Trump in an election against Hillary Clinton. Almost 10% of Michigan GOP voters say they’d actually vote for Hillary. On the other hand, Trump’s strategy includes drawing white, blue-collar voters away from the Democrats.

Speaking of Hillary Clinton, the Monmouth poll indicates former secretary of state maintains a 55% to 42% lead over Democratic rival Bernie Sanders in Michigan.

Rubio Closing the Gap in Florida?

A second Monmouth University poll out Monday provides what Hot Air is calling “the most encouraging news Rubio’s had in ages.” The poll shows Rubio down only 8 points in his must-win home state of Florida. What’s more, in the “early vote” of those who’ve already cast their ballots, Rubio actually leads Trump by 48% to 23%. This is significant because, as Hot Air points out, Trump tends to do better in early voting than he does with election day voters.

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin suggests Rubio shouldn’t get too excited.

Meanwhile, Rubio’s communications director Alex Conant is labeling “100 percent false” a CNN report that quoted anonymous sources within the Rubio camp as saying that some advisers are urging Rubio to leave the race before next week’s primary. “He doesn’t want to get killed in his home state,” one source familiar with internal debate told CNN, noting “a poor showing would be a risk and hurt his political future.” “That is fiction,” Conant told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room. 

Truth — as this GOP primary season shows every day — is stranger than fiction.

The Florida primary is Tuesday, March 15.

 

* Updated Tuesday morning to include data from the ABC/Washington Post national poll.

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