The crowded GOP field is harming Marco Rubio and helping Donald Trump, according to three new polls of likely Republican voters taken in New Hampshire, South Carolina and in Florida that also show Ted Cruz surging.I don't know how reliable this polling firm is, but if we believe the poll, Cruz can absolutely win South Carolina, the third contest after Iowa and New Hampshire -- he and Trump are tied at 27%, with Marco Rubio a distant third at 12%. I think Donald Trump can survive a loss in Iowa -- he'll scream "Fraud at polls!," a complaint his fans will find plausible, then he'll focus on getting a win in New Hampshire, which would make the fans see him as an alpha male again. But if Cruz wins two of the first three contests, yes, Trump will start looking like a loser.
For the first time, Cruz ties Trump in South Carolina, and he’s also tied for second with Rubio in the Florida senator’s home state, according to a memo on the three surveys, which were conducted after last week’s debate.
The polls were commissioned by Associated Industries of Florida, a pro-business lobby that tracks the race for its largely Republican membership.
Now, if you believe conventional theories of politics, Cruz seems as unlikely a nominee as Trump -- party insiders actively dislike him. But check out the first minute of this new Cruz video (flagged by the Right Scoop). Cruz makes a virtue of being hated by everyone else in Washington:
One of the few people in politics Cruz doesn't seem to want to be hated by is Trump, of course. That's working for Cruz not because he's picking up voters from a fading Trump -- Trump isn't fading yet -- but because he's gaining on Trump and Trump isn't attacking him. Trump seems too focused on attacking Hillary Clinton right now to direct any fire at Cruz. Cruz's coddling of Trump seems to have lulled Trump. Trump isn't politically smart enough to attack whoever threatens his lead -- he attacks based on gut feelings rather than his campaign's needs.
An alternate theory of this race -- being advanced by Nate Cohn of The New York Times, who just doesn't want to hear any of your talk about how crazy Republicans are these days -- is that Trump and Cruz might win a few states, but then Marco Rubio will gradually emerge as the sane Establishment choice, maybe after doing well in Nevada. National Review's Eliana Plott tells us that Rubio is building a big operation in Nevada -- except that she also says Cruz has a substantial organization there. So why would Rubio necessarily triumph there? Apparently because he lived there until he was ... um, in the eighth grade. Somehow I don't think that's really going to be the deciding factor.
I think it's going to be Trump or Cruz, and I'm beginning to think Cruz has the edge. He's just enough of a professional politician to understand the process in a way that Trump doesn't, and, like Trump, he welcomes the Establishment's hatred. That combination might give him the advantage.