Dec. 15, 2015 — Two new surveys, both conducted during the Dec. 7-10 period from two different pollsters, find Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) eclipsing Donald Trump in Iowa for the first time in a month. A third poll, that from Monmouth University (Dec. 3-6; 425 likely Iowa caucus attenders) and reported upon last week, also found the Texas senator surging into first place among likely Hawkeye State GOP caucus attenders.

The Selzer & Company poll conducted for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News (804 likely caucus attenders; 400 Republican; 404 Democratic) posts Sen. Cruz to his largest lead to date, 31-21 percent over Trump. Dr. Ben Carson, consistently losing support in Iowa since topping Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Trump 27-17-15 percent, respectively, in the Iowa State University poll (Nov. 2-15; 518 likely Iowa Republican caucus attenders), places third with 13 percent. Sen. Rubio follows with 10 percent, the last candidate placing in double-digits. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) trail with five percent apiece.

The Fox News poll (807 likely caucus attenders; 450 Republican; 357 Democratic) finds similar results, but with closer margins. Here, we see Cruz leading Trump 28-26 percent, with Rubio and Carson trading places and percentages. This poll finds Rubio at 13 percent and Carson with 10 percent, meaning the two are virtually tied when comparing results. Bush registers six percent, with Sen. Paul, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), and ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) each drawing three percent support.

The Selzer poll asked a series of questions designed to determine the leading candidates’ overwhelming strengths. In this segment, responses for only the four top candidates were recorded: Cruz, Trump, Rubio, and Carson. The findings suggest that Cruz and Trump are dominant, with each being named as the best in seven of 14 tested categories. Arguably, however, despite trailing on the latest Iowa ballot tests, it is Trump who again scores best on the most important issue areas.

Trump was viewed as the best to:

  • Manage the economy (50%; Cruz 24%)
  • Solve the immigration problem (50%; Cruz 22%)
  • Get things done (49%; Cruz 22%)
  • Reduce the federal deficit (48%; Cruz 27%)
  • Combat Islamic terrorism (35%; Cruz 32%)
  • Deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin (34%; Cruz 31%)
  • Position himself to defeat Hillary Clinton (30%; Cruz 26%)

Sen. Cruz was viewed as:

  • Having the best temperament to be President (34%; Rubio 25%)
  • Having the most appropriate life experience (34%; Trump 24%)
  • Having the right values to be President (34%; Carson 22%)
  • Making the best Commander-in-Chief (34%; Trump 25%)
  • Doing the most to make abortion illegal (32%; Carson 23%)
  • Being the most effective in dealing with Congress (31%; Rubio 29%)
  • Being the candidate who cares most about people like you (28%; Carson 24%)

These two most recent Iowa polls again find the same four candidates pulling away from the rest of the GOP throng of contenders. They continue to find Trump dominating on the major economic and immigration issues but not on values questions, and providing further evidence of a Cruz surge as Carson consistently falls back.

Under this backdrop, the candidates appear in Las Vegas today for the final Republican presidential debate of 2015. Two more will occur in January, on the 14th in South Carolina and the 28th in Iowa, before Caucus voting begins on Feb 1.

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