The latest Monmouth University poll of New Hampshire shows Donald Trump continuing to lead the GOP field by a double-digit margin.
The poll, however, shows a very tight race for second place, with Jeb Bush surging 9 points since Monmouth’s last survey in January.
Trump leads the field with 30 percent support, essentially unchanged since Monmouth’s last poll in early January. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is second with 14 percent support, also unchanged since early January. Marco Rubio has 13 percent support, up just one point in the last month. Ted Cruz has 12 percent, down just two points since the beginning of the year.
The momentum seems to be with Jeb Bush, who has surged 9 points in the last month. Bush has moved from 4 percent support in early January to 13 percent support today. He is tied with Marco Rubio for third.
Considering the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error, New Hampshire currently has a four-way race for second. Kasich, Rubio, Bush and Cruz are all well positioned to finish runner up in Tuesday’s primary. Chris Christie is much further back with just 6 percent support, down slightly since January.
All the pundit talk about Marco Rubio having momentum going into Tuesday’s vote looks hollow against this poll. Rubio’s support level in the state is unchanged since November. The only significant change in New Hampshire since the Fall is growing support for both Bush and Ted Cruz and a collapse in support for Ben Carson.
Two notes of caution, however. The Monmouth poll was conducted before Saturday’s Republican debate, which may reshuffle the race for second and third in the state. Marco Rubio was widely acknowledged to have stumbled in the debate, while Govs. Bush, Kasich and Christie were perceived to have done well.
In addition, only 49 percent of likely Republican voters say they are certain in their vote. Almost one-third of voters, 31 percent say they have a “strong preference” in whom to support. Monmouth did a follow up survey after the Iowa caucus and found that just over half of those voters with a “strong preference” stuck with their candidate on election day.
“Volatility is the name of the game in 2016’s first primary contest, just as it was in the first caucus state last week. While Trump’s placement as the top finisher seems fairly secure at this point, the margin of victory and final order of the remaining candidates are still very much up for grabs,” Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth polling, said in a release.
Monmouth’s final poll in Iowa greatly overestimated Trump’s support and underestimated support for both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Almost half of likely Republican voters, 49 percent, say they have been personally contacted about supporting at least one of the Presidential hopefuls. This indicates a very active and robust ground game currently trying to turn the vote out for Tuesday’s election. This high level of retail politicking is a feature of New Hampshire’s primary.
It is also one of the reasons that the final outcome is so predictable. With so many voters making their ultimate decision in the final hours of the campaign, that “last touch” with voters can prove decisive.