From my column in my local paper:
We are less than 100 days from the Iowa Caucuses. The closer we get, the more and more I think we are on the verge of a Ted Cruz vs. Marco Rubio Republican Primary.
To be sure, Donald Trump and Ben Carson are in the lead. Trump’s support has been declining in the past few weeks. More and more surveys have Trump falling behind Carson. The data on Carson shows a few things. His supporters are typically people of faith. They favor an outsider, but resist Trump’s brashness, and his support is soft support, meaning that his voters are not permanently locked into supporting him.
Trump’s supporters are more fixed. They love Trump. They will stand with Trump. But his core supporters who are locked into him are apparently less than half of his support. Much of Trump’s support too is soft and has drifted to Carson, away from Trump’s braggadocios style. The common trait among Trump and Carson’s supporters is that they want an outsider who will challenge Washington.
The most telling data in the polling is that most polls ask for second choices. Those second choices have been, for Carson, to go to Trump, and for Trump to go to Carson. That has changed. More and more, Cruz and Rubio are the second choices. Carly Fiorina has faded away. Jeb Bush is collapsing and his donor support is looking at Rubio. Christie is making a resurgent play in New Hampshire. Kasich is hanging on. But the establishment eyes are drifting toward Rubio while the outsiders are looking at Cruz.
In all the polling now, Rubio and Cruz are statistically tied for third place.