Cruz Gaining Support, Trump Lags;
Louisiana Senate Contenders Jump In

Nov. 30, 2015 — The new Iowa Quinnipiac University poll shows a significant gain for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in anticipation of the Feb. 1 Republican precinct meetings. Dr. Ben Carson recorded a substantial loss in support, while race leader Donald Trump posted an incremental gain.

According to the latest Q-Poll (Nov. 16-22; 600 likely Iowa Republican Caucus attenders), Sen. Cruz attracted an additional 13 percentage points when compared with the university’s Oct. 22 released survey. Their new ballot test finds Trump leading Cruz 25-23 percent, with Dr. Carson slipping to 18 percent (down from 28 percent in October) and Sen. Marco Rubio remaining constant with 13 percent support. Trump gained five percentage points in the last month.

Again we see the familiar separation pattern occurring, as the top four finishers in this poll: Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Rubio, again are firmly distinguishing themselves as the “Front Four”. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a distant fifth at just five percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush drops even lower to four percent.

While Trump continues to lead, though his advantage here is consistently shrinking, he also is tops in another category, which is not good news. A full 30 percent of the sample identified Trump as “the candidate they would definitely not support” in the Iowa Caucus. For a change, and unfortunately for him, Jeb Bush scores high. He is second in this negative category with 21 percent saying he is the one candidate for whom they won’t vote. By contrast, Cruz, Rubio, and Carson score seven, five and four percent figures, respectively, in response to this question.

Clearly the main reason for the Cruz jump is terrorism and foreign affairs. While the poll continues to provide supporting evidence that Trump is dominant on economic issues – 49 percent of the respondent sample identified the New York real estate mogul as the candidate who could “best handle the economy” with Cruz a distant second at 11 percent – foreign affairs is now a different animal. When asked which of the candidates can “best handle foreign policy”, 24 percent responded Cruz, with 18 percent saying Trump, while 15 percent tabbed Rubio.

The poll asked two other interesting questions in order to test enthusiasm and commitment. When asked whether the respondents were more or less enthusiastic than usual about participating in the Iowa Caucuses, 49 percent answered “more enthusiastic” as compared to only seven percent who feel less excited about the 2016 version of the presidential caucus process.

Asked whether they are committed to the candidate they chose in the survey, or could change their mind, we find a sampling universe that is still fluid. Only 41 percent of the respondents said they are firm in their choice, while 58 percent said they could still change their mind. Among Trump supporters, 51 percent said they are firm, the highest number among the candidates, but 48 percent said they could still switch to another candidate. Sen. Rubio had the lowest commitment level, with 78 percent of his current supporters indicating they are not yet firm. Sixty-five percent of Carson supporters could change their minds, and 53 percent of Cruz’s people said they might opt out.

The poll detects a significant move for Cruz, and if this upward pattern continues he may soon find himself in the best position to score a first-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses come February.

Louisiana Senate

As expected, two current US House members became the first candidates to officially declare their intentions for Sen. David Vitter’s (R) open Senate seat in next year’s election.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-4), who has been indicating for the last year that he would enter the Senate race no matter what the situation, confirmed that he will become a statewide candidate. His Shreveport-anchored congressional seat had been considered part of the 30 open seats for the 2016 cycle.

Located just to the south of Fleming’s district, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-3), also in an expected move, announced that he, too, will become a Senate candidate. The 3rd District now becomes the 31st open seat. Both are heavily favored to remain in Republican hands.

Under Louisiana’s unique election system, the jungle primary will be held concurrently with the Nov. 8 general election. If no candidate records majority support, which will be the likely outcome, the top two finishers will advance to a Dec. 10, 2016 post-election run-off. Republicans will be favored in this contest, too.

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