U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) at the 2015 Rising Tide Summit in Cedar Rapids, IA.Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) at the 2015 Rising Tide Summit in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)

There is absolutely no doubt that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has surged as we approach the Iowa Caucus that will be held on February 1, 2016.  He is the current front runner in Iowa looking at December polling.

We have had three recent polls that show Cruz is on top – Monmouth, Fox News and the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg polls. The CNN/ORC poll and Quinnipiac show Donald Trump is on top.  Real Clear Politics gives Cruz a +0.6% advantage.

The poll that everyone was making noise about over the weekend was the one released by the Des Moines Register & Bloomberg Politics taken by Seltzer & Company.  This poll shows the following picture:

1. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) – 31%
2. Donald Trump – 21%
3. Dr. Ben Carson – 13%
4. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) – 10%
5. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush – 6%
6. (Tie) Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, & U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) – 3%
9. Ohio Governor John Kasich – 2%
10. (Tie) Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) & Carly Fiorina – 1%
12. (Tie) U.S Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Former New York Governor George Pataki, and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore – 0%

This represents a 21 point gain for Cruz since they polled last. Carson has dropped 15 points. Trump has gained two points. Rubio gained 1 point as did Rubio. Christie gained two points. Beyond Carson losing points Fiorina dropped three, Paul dropped two, and Santorum dropped one. Huckabee and Kasich are the same.  Graham, Pataki and Gilmore have never registered on this poll.

Looking at the favorability rating, Cruz is on top there as well.

  • Ted Cruz: +54 (73 favorable, 19 unfavorable)
  • Ben Carson: +50 (72 favorable, 22 unfavorable)
  • Marco Rubio: +49 (70 favorable, 21 unfavorable)
  • Carly Fiorina: +19 (52 favorable, 33 unfavorable)
  • Donald Trump: +19 (57 favorable, 38 unfavorable)
  • Mike Huckabee: +15 (53 favorable, 38 unfavorable)
  • Chris Christie: +4 (46 favorable, 42 unfavorable)
  • Rick Santorum: -1 (42 favorable, 43 unfavorable)
  • Rand Paul: -13 (37 favorable, 50 unfavorable)
  • Jeb Bush: -15 (39 favorable, 54 unfavorable)
  • John Kasich: -27 (19 favorable, 46 unfavorable)
  • Lindsey Graham: -37 (16 favorable, 53 unfavorable)

Here is where things really look interesting when you see how things pan out as those polled consider their second choice (first choice – second choice):

1. Ted Cruz: 51 percent (31-20)
2. Donald Trump: 35 percent (21-14)
3. Ben Carson: 27 percent (13-14)
4. Marco Rubio: 24 percent (10-14)
5. Jeb Bush: 11 percent (6-5)
6. Mike Huckabee: 8 percent (3-5)
7. (Tie) Chris Christie and Rand Paul: 6 percent (3-3)
9. Carly Fiorina: 5 percent (1-4)
10. John Kasich: 4 percent (2-2)
11. Rick Santorum: 3 percent (1-2)

Going into the last month-and-a-half before the Caucus here is the number you have to keep in mind. Only 33% have said their mind is made up.  66% said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate.

That is significant. Both Cruz and Trump see over 40% of their supporters saying they will stick with their candidate (Trump – 45%, Cruz – 43%), but over half of their supporters could still change their minds.

According to the Quinnipiac poll released today it shows Trump and Cruz neck and neck.  Here are the results:

1. Trump – 28%
2. Cruz – 27%
3. Rubio – 14%
4. Carson – 10%
5. Bush – 5%
6. Paul – 4%
7. (Tie) Christie and Fiorina – 3%
9. (Tie) Huckabee and Kasich – 1%
11. (Tie) Santorum and Pataki – under 1%
12. (Tie) Graham and Gilmore – 0%

Cruz gained four points since the last Quinnipiac poll in November. Trump has gained three points. Rubio gained 1 point. Bush has gained one point and so has Christie.  Among those who lost support: Carson has dropped 8 points, Paul dropped one point, Huckabee dropped 1 point, and Santorum had dropped a point.

Cruz in this poll leads Trump among evangelicals 34% to 24%.  He also leads Trump among those who consider themselves “very conservative” – 41% to 24%, as well as, among Tea Party voters 45% to 26%. Trump leads Rubio among those who consider themselves “moderate/liberal” 27% to 20%.

Among those who support Cruz the most important characteristic was shared values at 40%.  For those who support Trump 40% said a strong leader.

According to the Quinnipiac poll 53% of those polled say they could still make up their mind. Among Trump’s supporters 58% said their mind was made up.  Among Cruz’s supporters half of his supporters said their mind was made up.  Among the top three Rubio’s support is the softest with only 32% saying their mind was made up.

Cruz and Carson top the Quinnipiac poll for favorability rating

  • Carson: +54 (74 favorable, 20 unfavorable)
  • Cruz: +54 (72 favorable, 18 unfavorable)
  • Rubio: +53 (71 favorable, 18 unfavorable)
  • Fiorina: +37 (59 favorable, 22 unfavorable)
  • Huckabee: +31 (59 favorable, 28 unfavorable)
  • Trump: +16 (55 favorable, 39 unfavorable)
  • Santorum: +13 (46 favorable, 33 unfavorable)
  • Christie: +9 (49 favorable, 40 unfavorable)
  • Paul: +1 (43 favorable, 42 unfavorable)
  • Bush – 10 (41 favorable, 51 unfavorable)
  • Kasich -14 (24 favorable, 38 unfavorable)
  • Gilmore -16 (2 favorable, 18 unfavorable)
  • Pataki – 24 (8 favorable, 33 unfavorable)
  • Graham -33 (16 favorable, 49 unfavorable)

Respondents were also asked for each of the four top candidates whether or not they believe they the right experience to be President.  For Marco Rubio 69% said that he did, 27% said that he did not. A majority – 52% said that Ben Carson did not have the right type of experience, 45% said that he did. 55% of respondents said they believed Donald Trump had the right experience while 43% said that he didn’t. 78% said that Ted Cruz had the right type of experience only 19% said that he didn’t.

Only half of Republicans believe that Donald Trump shared their values compared to 80% for Ben Carson, 71% for Marco Rubio, and 76% for Ted Cruz.  Only 49% believe Ben Carson has a good chance of winning the general election compared to 66% for Rubio, 64% for Trump and 65% for Cruz.

It has been said that polls are just a snapshot of where the race stands at the moment they were taken. That is true. The key statistic is how many are willing to change their minds.

Cruz being the frontrunner in Iowa will be subject to more scrutiny than ever before. We’ll see the opposition research come out. We’ll see the negative ads. He’s likely to be targeted during tomorrow night’s debate.  Will he withstand? Time will tell.

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