A creepy robocall from a PAC supporting Ted Cruz targeted Donald Trump on Thursday night for his dry and inconclusive statement about the Confederate battle flag. Writing for MSNBC, Vaughn Hillyard has this:
Courageous Conservatives, the pro-Cruz super PAC who paid for the calls, intends to send out two new robocalls on Friday night as well — just hours before the polls open for the state’s GOP primary.
Rick Shaftan, the head of the group, told NBC News the robocall about Trump’s opposition to the flag went out to 180,000 homes of Republicans who have voted in past primaries in South Carolina.
Haley, the governor of South Carolina, endorsed Cruz’s other main rival, Marco Rubio, on Wednesday.
Such a robocall with subtle racial undertones is the bare knuckles stuff South Carolina is used to. But its negative bent about another candidate conveys weakness. So do desperate calls for campaign cash on the eve of a primary.
And what of Donald Trump’s missteps? The utterance of the uber-leftist lie that George W. Bush lied to get us into the Iraq War last Saturday night sure didn’t get him many votes. Nor did his odd statement that he would be a “neutral” party in any Israeli-Palestinian negotiation places. This place him closer to President Obama than any other GOP candidate. In all, we’ve seen a Trump lurch to the left in South Carolina.
Trump has never surpassed 35 percent in polling data. He received 35.3 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. The fluctuation of his numbers between 32 and 34 percent in early week data indicated that the 11 percent of the vote earned by departed candidates Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina were not going to him. Some numbers favor Trump. Others don’t. Like this analysis from Public Policy Polling at the beginning of the week which favors Marco Rubio:
There are some reasons within the numbers to think Rubio might put in an unexpectedly strong performance on Saturday night. If voters have to choose just among the top three candidates he finishes in a clear second place with 28% to Trump’s 40% and Cruz’s 22%. Among voters who are either undecided or support one of the also rans- Bush, Carson, Kasich- 37% say they would move to Rubio compared to 19% for Trump and 13% for Cruz if they had to choose one of the top three. So if strategic voting occurs, that’s likely to be to Rubio’s benefit.
One surprising finding from the poll is that Ted Cruz has the worst net favorability rating of the candidates, with 42% of voters seeing him positively to 48% who have a negative opinion of him. He and Jeb Bush (41/43) are the only candidates under water. Showing that popularity isn’t everything Ben Carson is by far the most widely liked hopeful in the state with a 68/23 favorability rating, followed by Rubio at 58/32 and Kasich at 52/29. Trump is only the fourth most well liked at 50/43, but in contrast to the other candidates most of the voters who like him are also planning to vote for him.
Then there are the results of the Opinion Savvy poll which were released yesterday whic scored it Trump:27: Rubio: 23 Cruz: 19 Bush: 10.6 Carson: 8 and Kasich: 7. A surging poll in its own right, it caught Rubio’s surge in Iowa. Ed Morrissey offers this:
In case you’re wondering, Opinion Savvy is the same firm that had Trump and Cruz ahead of Rubio one week ago today, 36/19/15 respectively. As Allahpundit noted last week, they also came close to getting it right in Iowa, picking up on Rubio’s late surge, even if they missed the magnitude of the vote for all three candidates.
If this is a solid poll, then Rubio has gained nine points in a week while Trump has lost a similar amount, an eighteen-point flip in the gap between the two while the rest of the field stayed relatively static. On the plus side, it has a sample of 780 likely voters, a relatively large sample size for a single state, and “likely” was defined by “I will definitely vote” and those who had already sent in an absentee ballot.
If Rubio does indeed finish second in front of Cruz and Trump’s percentage falls below 30 percent in a victory, the playing field changes. Especially so if a disappointing Jeb Bush performance drives him from the race. Inside Opinion Savvy’s numbers show Rubio continuing as to lead as everyone’s 2nd choice but is followed closely by Cruz. Trump is last in this category.
What if Trump has repeated his pre-Iowa caucus performance and suppressed his own vote in which his over-sized vanity prompted him to sit out the last debate. His rhetorical lurch leftward this past week could certainly produce those same results. This could already be represented in his nine-point fall that Morrissey observed. Who benefits most? Or to ponder the once unthinkable: who could upset Trump today? The polling trends say that candidate would be Marco Rubio.