A new NBC/Marist poll finds Donald Trump with a 13-point lead in New Hampshire, down 6 points from the middle of January. With the state voting Tuesday, Trump has 30 percent support, followed by Marco Rubio with 17 percent and Ted Cruz with 15 percent.
Trump’s support is unchanged from two earlier NBC polls of the Granite State, going back to the beginning of January. Trump’s lead has shrunk as both Rubio and Cruz have gained support in the past two weeks.
Rubio has gained 6 points since mid-January, while Cruz has gone up 3 points. Rubio’s support is still fluid, however, as 13 percent of his supporters say they could still change their mind. Only 6 percent of Trump and Cruz supporters say they might change their mind.
John Kasich and Jeb Bush round out the top five in New Hampshire, with 11 and 10 percent respectively. Their support is also unchanged from the middle of January.
The New Hampshire primary is a notoriously difficult contest to poll, as a sizable number of voters there wait until the very end to finally decide on a candidate. In both 2008 and 2012, around 20 percent of voters decided whom to support on election day.
The Republican debate on Saturday is likely to have a dramatic impact on the final outcome of the contest. With Trump still likely to win the primary, the race for second and third is do-or-die for a number of campaigns.
Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie have staked their campaigns on finishing strong in New Hampshire. All three have devoted considerable finanical resources to advertising in the state and have held large numbers of campaign events. Kasich and Christie, in particular, will be hard-pressed to continue their campaigns without a strong finish on Tuesday.
Trump leads among “moderates” and “somewhat conservative” voters, who together make-up 60 percent of the Republican electorate. Cruz leads among “very conservative” voters by 22 points. These voters, however, make up just 20 percent of the total.
Trump’s lead is strongest among male voters, voters under 30, those earning less than $50,000 a year and those with a high school education or less. These are among the toughest voters to turn out in an election. Getting them to the polls will be a high priority for the Trump campaign.
The good news for Trump in the poll is that his support is very solid at 30 percent. Almost 80 percent of his supporters say they are definitely voting for him. The bad news, though, is he seems to have little opportunity to grow his support.
Trump is the second choice for only 10 percent of voters, far less than either Rubio or Cruz. In fact, when first and second choices are combined, the race between Trump and Rubio is essentially tied.
The only real question going into Tuesday is whether any of the other candidates can gain enough momentum to challenge Trump for a win.