Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The South Carolina Primary: What to Watch For

 

shutterstock_371093699The New Hampshire primary had me eating crow with Kasich’s second place win: I bought the conventional wisdom from the polls that Rubio was going to come in second on his way to working the 3-2-1 strategy that his campaign was pursuing to the nomination.

But the post-New Hampshire spin has largely ignored Katich’s Kasich’s second place victory, since everyone was concentrated on the smashing Trump win and Rubio’s slide. As I expected Rubio’s, rebounded in the polling from his New Hampshire loss and seems to be in a strong third and possible second place in South Carolina.

I’ll bullet my three scenarios and then lay out probable spin based on placement for each candidate. I’ll be considering all February polls per RealClearPolitics. Sadly, we do not have an Emerson poll ready for South Carolina since they nailed Iowa and New Hampshire (relatively speaking).

My three scenarios in order of likelihood:

Scenario 1: Trump, Cruz, Rubio — We’re back to the three man race, with talk about Rubio being the most electable reaching a fever pitch. Expect the slug match between Trump and Cruz to continue while Rubio concentrates all his efforts on destroying Cruz’s candidacy before the SEC Primary.

Scenario 2: Trump, Rubio, Cruz — Strong endorsements will be cited as the key to Rubio’s comeback, and more will follow as a flood of senators, governors from less red states, and the conservative media heap flowers and establishment dollars at Rubio’s feet as the savior of the Republican Party.

Scenario 3: Cruz, Trump, Rubio — Cruz’s basking in victory is short lived as all the talk will be about Rubio’s rebound and Trump files suit against Cruz over his eligibility.

Trump

As of right now Trump is leading in all the polls, averaging 17.5 points on his nearest competitor. The highest he’s been is 22 points ahead at 42% of likely voters, the lowest is 14 points ahead at 37% of likely voters. I think we can reasonably expect him to win South Carolina and, if so, the smart money is on him winning the nomination. Expect more “unstoppable” rhetoric and rending of garments from his critics once he walks away with the victory.

If he comes in second to any other candidate but Cruz there’ll be a long fight to the nomination as I don’t see him dropping out against Carson, Rubio, Bush, or Kasich because he can open his bank accounts or simply accept donations from his supporters to try and drown his opponents in cash; what hasn’t worked from Bush might work for Trump.

If he comes in second to Cruz, I expect accusations of cheating, one heck of a “concession” speech, and news that he’ll file suit to disqualify Cruz from the nomination for not being a natural born citizen. With Justice Scalia’s, passing one has to wonder how that suit will go as Trump and Cruz would appeal all the way to the Supreme Court and the lower courts are unreliable when it comes to these things.

Cruz

Cruz is coming in second in the polling average with a less than stellar 17.5 percent, with some polls showing him coming in third after Trump and Rubio, or fourth after Trump, Rubio, and Kasich. ARG, the polling firm that shows him in fourth, can probably be discounted as they also showed him in fourth in New Hampshire.

There is an outside chance Cruz win the state but keep in mind his average in the polls is much farther back than in Iowa. If Cruz wins South Carolina, he has a very good argument for being the only man who can beat Trump as he will have actually beaten Trump in two of three contests. Make no mistake, though: the anti-Cruz and anti-Trump forces who are backing the establishment lane candidates will make the point that Cruz only won in two very non-representative, conservative states that don’t look like Florida or Ohio which are the must-wins in conventional election political thinking.

If Cruz comes in second, he’ll still make the argument that he can win against Trump in the long run since he’ll have placed better than everyone else. However, there will be more calls for him to drop out as an unelectable candidate, as he’s put a lot of time and effort into South Carolina and it should be a good state for him.

If Cruz comes in third or below (especially below), he’ll have a hard time countering a narrative that his campaign is slipping away and the calls from him to drop in favor of whomever came in second will be deafening. He will probably fight through the SEC primary since he has a large campaign fund and a strongly funded Super PAC. He would have to burn a lot of money however to come through the primary with the top delegate count with a 1-3-3 placement.

Rubio

Rubio had a very bad primary in New Hampshire but the polls show him rebounding in South Carolina, which isn’t that surprising in a more conservative state. In the polls, he’s averaging about 16 percent; not great but it’s much better than his lane rivals Jeb Bush (10 percent) and John Kasich (9 percent). It looks like he’ll come in third but he could pull an upset with strong support from Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy and place second. I doubt he’ll win, but — if he does — prepare for some accusations that’ll make your hair stand on end. I’m not saying his campaign would try to steal the primary by the way, just stating what would happen in that unlikely scenario.

If Rubio comes in third, he has a ticket into the Nevada caucus where he’ll hope to place second and displace his rivals by absorbing votes from Kasich and Bush. Rubio’s candidacy depends on becoming a consensus candidate, so he has to beat Bush and Kasich by convincing margins (the numbers in the current polling would do). If so, you’ll see plenty of articles echoing Mona Charen’s “Open Letter to Jeb Bush” begging everyone but Cruz and Trump to drop out and support Rubio in order to stop Trump.

If Rubio comes in second you’ll see a lot of the same coverage you got from his third place finish in Iowa: second will become the new third and there will be a lot of talk about his recovery from the New Hampshire debate to the South Carolina debate. A second place finish in South Carolina will strongly position him for Nevada. If that goes well, he should be able to collect enough money to fight through to the supposedly blue GOP states’ primaries to collect enough winner-take-all delegates through pluralities to cinch the nomination by the convention.

In the unlikely event he loses to Bush, Kasich, or both he’s got real trouble on his hands and he’ll start losing big money donors as a flash-in-the-pan candidate. I’d expect some comparisons to Fred Thompson and Rick Perry to begin which will hurt him down the pike but, like Cruz, he won’t drop out until after the SEC primary.

Bush

Bush seems to be betting the house on South Carolina after a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire. Worse, he’s betting the house on a third place win: currently he’s in fourth place in South Carolina polling per RCP’s average, though a leaked internal poll has him in third, one point ahead of Rubio.

If Bush places fourth or lower, the calls from him to drop will be more insistent than ever and I have to think he’ll drop after Nevada. The one thing that may keep him in the race is the money he and his PACs have spent: he’ll go down as a political joke if he quits before the SEC primary and that’s not an easy place to be as the “more talented” son and brother of two presidents.

If Bush places third (or, inexplicably, better) he’s in for SEC primary although everyone in the conservative media will be asking why he’s still trying to win. Expect a lot of sound and fury from the conservative media on the web and on Twitter about him “stealing” votes from Rubio. If he and Rubio really are only one point apart at then end I’d expect Trump to become the nominee as neither one will drop out.

Kasich

Kasich is pulling about 10%, and as high as 14% in the ARG poll (I still don’t see him beating both Rubio and Cruz in South Carolina, but I don’t like the guy, so I’m biased) so he’s still game for the long run. Like Bush, his candidacy is based on a last-man-standing strategy.

He probably won’t drop until after Nevada if he comes in fifth, but he might based on lack of funding; somehow I don’t see him going into millions in debt in his quest to be the furthest-left candidate we’ve had for the GOP in 30 years, which is saying something with Romney and McCain being our last two nominees.

If he somehow comes in third, we’ll have to reevaluate the race especially if he beats Rubio and Bush. If he gets second, there’s a new frontrunner for the not-Trump candidate.

Carson

Does anyone see Carson doing better than he has? Hopefully, after South Carolina he goes home with dignity intact but he’s polling as low as 3 percent and as high as 7 percent in the RCP polls. I don’t see his campaign, which has been almost comically mismanaged at this point, giving him the infrastructure in the SEC primary.

Anything can happen in the famously dirty South Carolina primary however so we’ll see what occurs on Saturday.

However it goes, best of luck to your candidate!

There are 59 comments.

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  1. Guruforhire Member

    The trumpening! Its happening!

    Gilmore is like a V8. You could have had it.

    • #1
    • February 16, 2016, at 10:09 AM PST
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  2. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    Guruforhire:The trumpening! Its happening!

    Gilmore is like a V8. You could have had it.

    Don’t blame me! I voted for Kodos!

    • #2
    • February 16, 2016, at 10:15 AM PST
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  3. Leigh Member

    What would be really fun is if it were Rubio, Cruz, Trump. And for extra good measure let’s put Bush below Carson.

    Oh, I know, not happening, but would be interesting. So would Cruz-Rubio-Trump. Come on South Carolina, stir it up a little.

    • #3
    • February 16, 2016, at 2:27 PM PST
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  4. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    Cruz-Rubio-Trump would be weird. Super weird and I’m not sure how Donald would handle third.

    Even I would suspect foul play in a Rubio-Cruz-Trump finish. And it is South Carolina so it’s possible

    • #4
    • February 16, 2016, at 3:55 PM PST
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  5. TKC1101 Inactive

    Damn fine analysis. I would expect Trump to create his own events and avoid the Media-GOPe killzones that the debates are becoming. I am waiting to see if Marco will do something dramatic on immigration to gain traction. Cruz cannot create a surprise, he is what he is.

    • #5
    • February 16, 2016, at 11:42 PM PST
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  6. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    TKC1101:Damn fine analysis. I would expect Trump to create his own events and avoid the Media-GOPe killzones that the debates are becoming. I am waiting to see if Marco will do something dramatic on immigration to gain traction. Cruz cannot create a surprise, he is what he is.

    He already is – he’s counter-townhalling with MSNBC to the fury of, well, everyone who doesn’t support Trump.

    Frankly I’m not sure why it’s dirty pool because as we’re tired of hearing “politics ain’t beanbag”. But he can’t get used to it because it’s one thing in a primary and another in the general and it looks increasingly likely that he’ll win.

    If the new CNN/ORC poll is predictive, the massive attacks I’m seeing (and it must be much worse in South Carolina) against Cruz as a liar has hurt him badly with evangelicals which is a core part of his strategy. He needs to win South Carolina evangelicals in a big, big way to win the state and if Trump is carrying them by 42% (!) then it’s all over but the crying.

    • #6
    • February 17, 2016, at 6:27 AM PST
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  7. I Walton Member

    Trump all the way is as depressing as Scalia’s death.

    • #7
    • February 17, 2016, at 6:41 AM PST
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  8. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    I Walton:Trump all the way is as depressing as Scalia’s death.

    Then you should know who to blame.

    • #8
    • February 17, 2016, at 6:43 AM PST
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  9. BrentB67 Inactive

    I originally thought #3 plausible, but after the debate, I am not confident.

    I think all eyes are on Trump. If he wins after the debate performance I think we are out of airspeed and ideas.

    Good analysis and scenarios.

    • #9
    • February 17, 2016, at 6:50 AM PST
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  10. BrentB67 Inactive

    Leigh:What would be really fun is if it were Rubio, Cruz, Trump. And for extra good measure let’s put Bush below Carson.

    Oh, I know, not happening, but would be interesting. So would Cruz-Rubio-Trump. Come on South Carolina, stir it up a little.

    I don’t discount that scenario as not happening.

    • #10
    • February 17, 2016, at 6:54 AM PST
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  11. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    BrentB67:I originally thought #3 plausible, but after the debate, I am not confident.

    I think all eyes are on Trump. If he wins after the debate performance I think we are out of airspeed and ideas.

    Good analysis and scenarios.

    Frankly the reformicons show we’re out of ideas already.

    Tax cuts as welfare is not smart political policy it’s a lack of imagination.

    • #11
    • February 17, 2016, at 6:59 AM PST
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  12. Columbo Inactive

    Great thread and analysis. As a Cruz guy, I pray for Scenario 3. Scenario 1 would be acceptable, keeping the status quo.

    I do believe that Ted Cruz is the only candidate who can beat Trump.

    • #12
    • February 17, 2016, at 7:30 AM PST
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  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great post. This is my only real quibble.

    Austin Murrey:

    Scenario 2: Trump, Rubio, Cruz — Strong endorsements will be cited as the key to Rubio’s comeback, and more will follow as a flood of senators, governors from less red states, and the conservative media heap flowers and establishment dollars at Rubio’s feet as the savior of the Republican Party.

    So far the only top three candidate gubernatorial endorsement has been Brownback for Rubio. Rubio’s Congressional endorsements have also been from the conservative end of the party, for the reasons given here. The chart is particularly helpful. That seems likely to continue to be the trend; Rubio might get some purple state gubernatorial endorsements, but red would predominate.

    I think I rate Bush’s and Kasich’s chances more generously than you. To the extent that the question of the primary is about support for W, which it may be on the day, he’s the candidate to express that with. Regarding Kasich, although Kasich has chosen to campaign in Michigan rather than Greenburg, suggesting he won’t drop out, there are more self-identified moderate and liberal republicans in South Carolina than people think, and he mostly gets his demographic to himself (Trump also appeals to liberals, but primarily uneducated liberals, whereas Kasich appeals to educated liberals). It’s the last of the three big openish primaries, which may boost that further; in Nevada, which is closed, I haven’t encountered a single solid Kasich vote in about 2500 calls.

    • #13
    • February 17, 2016, at 7:47 AM PST
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  14. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    Columbo:Great thread and analysis. As a Cruz guy, I pray for Scenario 3. Scenario 1 would be acceptable, keeping the status quo.

    I do believe that Ted Cruz is the only candidate who can beat Trump.

    Many thanks! As things stand I’m voting Cruz in Texas’s primary but I’m always hesitant about the “only X can do Y” statements unless there’s an old Vulcan proverb involved.

    Rubio’s biggest flaw if he can defeat Cruz is the people backing him – if the Bernie and Trump candidacies do indicate an anti-establishment fever sweeping the nation in 2016 he isn’t helped by the enthusiastic regard of McConnell and Ryan (or National Review for that matter!)

    • #14
    • February 17, 2016, at 7:51 AM PST
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  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Columbo:Great thread and analysis. As a Cruz guy, I pray for Scenario 3. Scenario 1 would be acceptable, keeping the status quo.

    I do believe that Ted Cruz is the only candidate who can beat Trump.

    The central argument that Trump goes down is that he has a low ceiling; his unfavorables are so high that most candidates beat him in a one on one, although he continues to do well with a divided field.

    Cruz is the only candidate with higher unfavorables than Trump. He may thus be the only candidate Trump could beat.

    • #15
    • February 17, 2016, at 7:54 AM PST
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  16. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    James Of England: I think I rate Bush’s and Kasich’s chances more generously than you. To the extent that the question of the primary is about support for W, which it may be on the day, he’s the candidate to express that with.

    You might be right about Kasich – I just have a visceral dislike for the man so it’s hard for me to be objective about his chances.

    Jeb probably isn’t getting the boost from W as much as he’d like if this report from the Washington Free Beacon is anything to go by. W gets a lot of love from South Carolina but Jeb keeps getting the brush off.

    But I’m not sure that moderate and liberal Republicans are gravitating towards Kasich or Jeb when they have Trump, as recently noticed in the Washington Post.

    • #16
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:02 AM PST
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  17. Guruforhire Member

    So what are you learning?

    • #17
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:09 AM PST
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  18. Mr. Dart Inactive

    Ben Carson actually is a factor in the SC race. Here’s why. Cruz needs to be dominant here in the Upstate to secure a strong second place finish. It is the area of Ted’s natural strength. While Carson is around <5% in the statewide polls he’s at 8-10% in the Upstate. I pointed out in a comment about a week ago that the most important endorsement out there was Ben Carson’s. If Cruz could get him to suspend and endorse him he’d secure 2nd place. Ben probably won’t do it and it’s getting to be too late anyway. He’s blocking Cruz whether he knows it or not.

    Cruz is trying hard to get the Haley endorsement. So far she will only anti-endorse Trump. Rubio would not likely get her nod since his SC consultants are the guys who promoted a filthy smear against her character in 2010. Her not endorsing Cruz, Bush, or Kasich is the best Marco can hope for I suspect.

    Meanwhile the radio ads Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott did for Rubio are excellent. Ivanka Trump’s ad for her father is excellent as well. Cruz is hammering Trump from every direction including ads about the Supreme Court made since the passing of Scalia.

    (Nobody will beat Trump, btw. Even after the 2/13 donnybrook in Greenville he leads in every category: region/ age/ political persuasion. Even self-described libertarians. He comes in 2nd in nothing.)

    • #18
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:11 AM PST
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  19. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    James Of England:

    He may thus be the only candidate Trump could beat.

    James, do you really think Trump would lose to Jeb Bush or Ben Carson at this point in a two man race? I just don’t see that happening. There’s a weird idea that every vote for someone other than Trump is against Trump

    And remember always the source of the poll you’re citing! PPP might be useful in aggregate but they are the only pollsters with a party designation after their name on RCP for a reason.

    • #19
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:11 AM PST
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  20. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    Mr. Dart: Ben Carson actually is a factor in the SC race. Here’s why. Cruz needs to be dominant here in the Upstate to secure a strong second place finish. It is the area of Ted’s natural strength. While Carson is around <5% in the statewide polls he’s at 8-10% in the Upstate. I pointed out in a comment about a week ago that the most important endorsement out there was Ben Carson’s. If Cruz could get him to suspend and endorse him he’d secure 2nd place. Ben probably won’t do it and it’s getting to be too late anyway. He’s blocking Cruz whether he knows it or not.

    But does that move him out of last place? He probably is keeping Cruz further from winning some of those districts (which says more about Cruz than Carson in my humble opinion) but in the end I don’t believe it matters much because the overall vote winner statewide gets 29 of 50 delegates.

    Does anyone think at this point that Trump won’t come out of South Carolina with at least 41 delegates?

    • #20
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:19 AM PST
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  21. Demaratus Coolidge
    Demaratus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I will never vote for Trump. I suspect there will be a non trivial number of us in the general.

    Trump being the nominee, when the other party is socialist, just shows America is dead, waiting for the fascist undertakers to remove the body.

    So, New Zealand or Australia?

    • #21
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:20 AM PST
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  22. Mr. Dart Inactive

    Austin Murrey:

    Mr. Dart: Ben Carson actually is a factor in the SC race. Here’s why. Cruz needs to be dominant here in the Upstate to secure a strong second place finish. It is the area of Ted’s natural strength. While Carson is around <5% in the statewide polls he’s at 8-10% in the Upstate. I pointed out in a comment about a week ago that the most important endorsement out there was Ben Carson’s. If Cruz could get him to suspend and endorse him he’d secure 2nd place. Ben probably won’t do it and it’s getting to be too late anyway. He’s blocking Cruz whether he knows it or not.

    But does that move him out of last place? He probably is keeping Cruz further from winning some of those districts (which says more about Cruz than Carson in my humble opinion) but in the end I don’t believe it matters much because the overall vote winner statewide gets 29 of 50 delegates.

    Does anyone think at this point that Trump won’t come out of South Carolina with at least 41 delegates?

    As of today the race is for a strong 2nd place finish. That’s why Cruz wants the Upstate Carson voters and the Haley endorsement for help in the Midlands and the Lowcountry. It’s about viability going into Super Tuesday, not delegate counting. If Carson was a politician he could make a great deal today.

    • #22
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:34 AM PST
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  23. Guruforhire Member

    Demaratus:I will never vote for Trump. I suspect there will be a non trivial number of us in the general.

    Trump being the nominee, when the other party is socialist, just shows America is dead, waiting for the fascist undertakers to remove the body.

    So, New Zealand or Australia?

    Both have non-insane immigration policies so you cant get in.

    • #23
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:36 AM PST
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  24. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    Mr. Dart: If Carson was a politician he could make a great deal today.

    Considering he’s all but said he’d like to drop out, who’s to say he hasn’t?

    • #24
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:42 AM PST
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  25. Profile Photo Member

    Mr. Dart: Nobody will beat Trump, btw. Even after the 2/13 donnybrook in Greenville he leads in every category: region/ age/ political persuasion. Even self-described libertarians.

    It’s at this point that one begins to realize that self-description is only useful when everyone understands the terms the same way.

    • #25
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:49 AM PST
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  26. Mr. Dart Inactive

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    Mr. Dart: Nobody will beat Trump, btw. Even after the 2/13 donnybrook in Greenville he leads in every category: region/ age/ political persuasion. Even self-described libertarians.

    It’s at this point that one begins to realize that self-description is only useful when everyone understands the terms the same way.

    Yep.

    • #26
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:51 AM PST
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  27. Mr. Dart Inactive

    Austin Murrey:

    Mr. Dart: If Carson was a politician he could make a great deal today.

    Considering he’s all but said he’d like to drop out, who’s to say he hasn’t?

    Well, nobody told his ad team. I’ve heard at least 6 Carson for President ads this morning and he leads the unimportant road sign race by a ton. He’ll likely finish last statewide Saturday but he could still be a factor as I described above.

    Just trying to give you a view from the ground.

    • #27
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:57 AM PST
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  28. Profile Photo Member

    Mr. Dart:

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    Mr. Dart: Nobody will beat Trump, btw. Even after the 2/13 donnybrook in Greenville he leads in every category: region/ age/ political persuasion. Even self-described libertarians.

    It’s at this point that one begins to realize that self-description is only useful when everyone understands the terms the same way.

    Yep.

    I’d love to see polling on what various self-identified people think. I don’t mean it in a snotty way. I have a feeling some of the trouble is that not everyone is speaking the same language.

    • #28
    • February 17, 2016, at 8:58 AM PST
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  29. Mr. Dart Inactive

    Quinn the Eskimo:I’d love to see polling on what various self-identified people think. I don’t mean it in a snotty way. I have a feeling some of the trouble is that not everyone is speaking the same language.

    The Feb 15th SC House Republican Caucus Poll of 1700 likely voters +/- 2.4 shows this by self-ID among likely SC Republican Primary voters:

    Conservative- Trump 27%, Cruz 20%, Bush/Rubio tied 18%

    Moderate- Trump 32%, Bush 20%, Kasich 18%

    “Tea Party”- Trump 36%, Cruz 30%, Rubio 13%

    Libertarian- Trump 32%, Carson 23%, Rubio 14%

    Independent- Trump 50%, Cruz 14%, Kasich 10%

    Other- Trump 36%, Undecided 21%, Kasich/Bush tie 10%

    These categories made up the total likely voters as follows:

    Conservative R’s 50%, Moderate R’s 20%, Tea Party R’s 13%, Others including Democrats 9%, Independents 6%, Libertarians 2%.

    • #29
    • February 17, 2016, at 9:16 AM PST
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  30. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey

    Mr. Dart:

    Austin Murrey:

    Mr. Dart: If Carson was a politician he could make a great deal today.

    Considering he’s all but said he’d like to drop out, who’s to say he hasn’t?

    Well, nobody told his ad team. I’ve heard at least 6 Carson for President ads this morning and he leads the unimportant road sign race by a ton. He’ll likely finish last statewide Saturday but he could still be a factor as I described above.

    Just trying to give you a view from the ground.

    And I appreciate it – part of the problem of poll watching is that you’re (by which I mean I’m) literally watching polls.

    Carson not dropping out is one of (but not the only) reasons I favor a Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Trump, Rubio, Cruz finish over a Cruz, Trump, Rubio finish but I find it hard to see a path out of South Carolina for him if he finishes where I expect.

    • #30
    • February 17, 2016, at 9:17 AM PST
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