Jan. 5, 2015 — We’re now within one month of the first votes being cast in the 2016 presidential campaign, and though there is disagreement about just how important the “February Four” states will be in determining the ultimate Republican winner, the early entities, at a minimum, are of clear significance. Today, we cover the Republicans; tomorrow, we reset the Democrats.
The voting calendar begins with the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 1, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. Eleven days later, South Carolina Republicans vote in their party run primary. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, both parties will conduct the Nevada Caucuses.
The four states, for the hotly contested Republicans, are assigned an aggregate of just 133 delegates. The February results will serve as a prelude to Super Tuesday voting, which will occur this year on March 1. Fourteen entities will host either primaries or caucuses on that day.
The latest 10 published polls from Iowa, taken from Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, either find businessman Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) holding the lead. Five surveys, from Monmouth University, the Des Moines Register, Loras College, Fox News, and CBS/YouGov post Cruz to an advantage. Four give Trump a slight edge: Quinnipiac University (twice), CNN, and Public Policy Polling. One pollster, Gravis Marketing, has the two tied at 31 percent in the latest released poll (Dec. 18-21/15). Cruz’s average lead is 8.6 percent. Trump’s average advantage is a much smaller 4.7 percent.
The last 10 New Hampshire polls, conducted from Nov. 15 through Dec. 22, all find Trump at the head of the pack. The polls, from the same research companies and news outlets as Iowa except for the additions of Suffolk University, MassInc/WBUR National Public Radio, Adrian Gray Consulting, Franklin Pierce University/The Boston Herald, and the American Research Group, while The Des Moines Register, Loras College, and Quinnipiac University are subtracted, project Trump with an average double-digit margin of 13.4 percent.
South Carolina has not been as widely polled as the first two states, so the time span among the studies is greater. The 10-poll Palmetto State window stretches from Oct. 15 through Dec. 17. Nine of the 10 surveys project Trump in first position. The pollsters, CBS/YouGov (3), Clemson, Monmouth, and Winthrop Universities, the Augusta Chronicle, Fox News, Public Policy Polling, and Morning Consult, find Trump with an average scope of just over 10 points. The one survey that didn’t find him leading, Monmouth University (Nov. 15-18), saw Trump trailing Dr. Ben Carson by just one percentage point.
South Carolina is the only state of the first four to use a Winner-Take-All by congressional district system for delegate allocation. The largest of the four states in terms of delegation size (50 delegates), awards a candidate placing first in each of the state’s seven congressional districts three delegates for each CD in which the candidate places first, regardless of vote total or percentage. The statewide winner will receive 26 at-large delegates in addition to his CD totals.
Nevada is the least-polled of the four early states, and by a wide margin. Here, only three public polls were conducted during the Oct. 3 – Dec. 27 period. Though the number is small, the polling trio agrees upon the conclusion: Trump has a commanding lead.
CNN, Morning Consult, and Gravis Marketing conducted the latest polls and find Trump leading the field by an average of 26 points. It is important to note, however, that the most current survey, that from Gravis Marketing (Dec. 23-27), finds Trump’s edge to be 13 points (33-20-11 percent, over Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio), still a large advantage but not as dominating as the previous polls that suggested he enjoys a 30-plus point margin.