The GOP race is deadlocked nationally between Trump, Rubio & Cruz but things may change significantly after New Hampshire and when the field narrows. And, because we sometimes look only at the “present” as reality, we lose track of the “future” realities. Because there are high expectations the field will narrow to three candidates after New Hampshire (maybe four if Kasich, Bush or Christie exceed expectations), I thought I’d give some analysis of what it might look like when the field is smaller.
Most of the information below came from the most recent PPD poll. The reason I’m using the PPD poll is it provides information heretofore not available (second choice by candidate). I know it is a firm principally used by Democrats. However, when I tested this analysis against some other polls, the results were reinforced.
Horse Race: Trump (25%), Rubio (21%), Cruz (21%), Carson (11%) and everyone else is 5% or lower.
Computation Methodology: Basically, I added to candidate’s support totals specific second choice votes as a candidate “dropped out.” For instance, of the 5% of voters who support Bush, 15% of them picked Carson as their second choice. Thus, I added .75% more to Carson from Bush. This is referred to below as the “first allocation.”
Then, when Carson dropped out, of the 11% of voters who support Carson (plus the 2% he picked up as second choice which is referred to below as the “second allocation”) was allocated ultimately to a remaining candidate in the proportion that his supporters had other candidates as second choice. For instance, 25% of Carson’s supporters had Cruz as a second choice so I added 3.25% to Cruz with the dropping out of Carson (FYI: Cruz picks up support mostly from Carson supporters which maybe explains why the Cruz campaign floated the rumor Carson was dropping out).
Presuming this is a three person race (Trump, Rubio, Cruz), the race looks this way after the first allocation of the second choice votes: Rubio (26.21%), and Cruz (25.67%), Trump (25.31%).
Then, after the second allocation of second place votes (which is really making an assumption of 3rd choice votes), the race looks like this: Rubio (31.42%), Cruz (31.25%), Trump (28.56) with undecided at 8.77%
However, when the voters were asked the question direct in the poll, it is Rubio (34%), Trump (33%), and Cruz (25%) with 8% undecided. Conclusion: While Rubio is the second choice of 22%, Cruz 20% and Trump only 7%, what you see is that 13% go to Rubio (vs. 10% in my computation), 8% to Trump (vs. 3.56%) and 4% to Cruz (vs. 10.25%). What this tells us is Cruz is the third choice of very few voters.
Doing the same methodology, in a two person race between Trump and Cruz translates as follows: Cruz (33.23%) and Trump (28.41%) before the second allocation. Because Cruz mathematically picks up votes 4:1 to Trump, the race is Cruz (54.55%) beats Trump (33.87%) with 11.5% undecided.
However, when voters are asked this question, Cruz (47%) is ahead of Trump (41%), 14% go to Cruz (vs. 21% in my computation) and 13% (vs. 5%) to Trump. What this tells us is that while Trump is the 2nd choice of very few voters, he is the third choice vs Cruz of most of the voters when Rubio and the others are gone. Again, Cruz is showing little appeal beyond those who already support him.
As above, Rubio vs. Trump translates very close to Cruz/Trump: Rubio (32.51%) and Trump (29.67%. Because Rubio picks up votes at less than a 3:1 ratio, the race is Rubio (52.4%) and Trump (37.89%) with 11.71% undecided.
While my computation captures the movement to Rubio when voter’s are asked the head-to-head question, Rubio (52%) leads Trump (40%) a bit less. From the current large field when it drops down to a two person race, Rubio picks up 31% vs. 15% for Trump. What this tells us is Cruz’ supporters go almost 3:1 to Rubio vs. Trump. Like Cruz is showing us, Trump too has a ceiling but not as low as that of Cruz. And, Trump is showing himself to be a third choice at a higher level than he is a second choice.
And finally, the race between Rubio and Cruz: Cruz (32.92%) and Rubio (29.71%) before the second allocation. After that allocation, it is Cruz (46.07%), Rubio 39.91% with 14.02% undecided.
However, when the voters are asked this question the results are virtually switched with Rubio (46%) leading Cruz (40%). This again confirms that Cruz has his 21%, is second choice 20% of the remaining 79% but is the third choice of very few not matter what. What is surprising about this is that while he has a good Favorable/Unfavorable ratio, it doesn’t translate into secondary and tertiary support. It might be a combination of his fealty to the “very conservative lane” and a personality problem that doesn’t connect with people who don’t agree with him on everything. I just know that by the end of his 33 minute “Iowa victory speech” I was having trouble listening to the specifics of his words because his nasally voice came across as a long whine.
So, why did I do the math when I just had to look at the poll?
- Better discern where the heads of the 33% of the party currently not supporting the top three. They prefer Rubio over both Cruz and Trump by a large margin. And, they prefer Cruz over Trump by a significant margin. But that is today. There is still a lot of campaign for things to change.
- Assuming the campaigns are seeing the same thing, I wanted insight in what to expect strategically going forward. Rubio and Cruz gain more by driving the other out vs. concentrating on Trump while Trump needs Rubio and Cruz to eat each other but not so much one drops out. I expect the gunfight to be between Rubio and Cruz and Trump becomes an observer (hard for him to do, I’m sure).
- And, #2 also helps Trumps biggest problem: He does worst in head-to-heads with either Democrat. He has no chance to be President unless his Favorable/Unfavorable ratio changes and he becomes more acceptable to Independents and Democrats.
A couple of comments:
- This is math. Voters don’t move this way and the margin of error increases as we go down the line in allocations. The direct question asked in the poll is more reliable with regard to where people are today but my math (by missing the answer in the direct question) gives a lot of insight in what might happen when the field narrows and the why.
- This is as of now and it is just one poll.
- 50% of the respondents said they were open to changing their mind.
- It appears that Trump’s core supporters are the highest, Cruz’ second and Rubio’s third.
- Unless Cruz starts to expand his base, he needs EVERYONE to stay in the race to get the nomination. Cruz’ campaign strategy has been centered on two basic principles: He needs to win the “conservative lane” and either attract some of Trump’s “anti-establishment lane” or knock Trump out. What this might be telling us is by focusing on a “lane” Cruz has created a hard ceiling for himself as the field narrows.
- Trump is best served by a three person race. This makes sense as Trump’s strategy appears to very “populist” in tone which transcends strict policy ideologies (very conservative, conservative or moderate) in the party. But it too has a ceiling.
- Rubio is best served by a two person race. I guess that conforms to conventional wisdom that except for Cruz and Trump, all of the other candidates (except for Libertarian Rand Paul) were perceived as not that very different with regard to tone or policy- traditional conservative Republicans. I never really bought into the conventional wisdom but maybe should have. I originally thought the race was going to come down to a two or three person race with someone coming out of the “Governor lane” (Walker, Bush, Kasich, Perry, Christie, Huckabee, Jindal), “Senator lane” (Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Santorum, Graham) and “Outsider lane” (Trump, Fiorina, Carson).
P.S. I do have a draft of a post on New Hampshire predictions but I’m waiting to see the last polls and developments. While reserving the right to change my mind, I am predicting NH will finish in this order: Trump, Rubio, Cruz and someone in distant fourth (maybe a surprise).