Here at RedState, we have been saying that the race would ultimately come down to [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] v. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] for months. The early polling from last week’s CNBC debate shows that we have moved one significant step closer to that reality. A new Q-poll was released today which is the first that was conducted exclusively with interviews that occurred after the Oct. 28th debate. The results show that there were four and only four candidates who registered support outside the margin of error: Trump (24), Carson (23), Rubio (14), and Cruz (13). Jeb Bush has fallen off the face of the earth to 4% support and no one else got even 3%.
The race right now appears to be a four man contest. However, there’s good reason to believe that when the dust settles, Rubio and Cruz will lead the rest of the field pretty handily. First, Carson’s support, although growing, is very soft – only one third of all Carson supporters say they have definitely made up their minds to support him. Second, Trump’s support, although theoretically firmer, is clearly eroding, as Trump lost the lead in the RCP polling average for the first time in over 100 days today. Overall, Trump has lost about 25% of his voters in the last two weeks.
More importantly, Trump can’t buy massive free media coverage anymore. Following Trump around and reporting on the crazy things he says and does has become almost boring, which accounts at least partially for the fact that he was largely ignored during the CNBC debate. It’s frankly difficult to see Trump reversing his trajectory – he simply has no depth and nothing new to say that people have not already heard.
Accordingly, Rubio and Cruz are clearly separating themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of candidates who are prepared to pick up the pieces when the “outsider” candidates leave center stage. And let’s face it: a final showdown between Cruz and Rubio would be a great, great result for conservatives. Personally, I think Rubio would win such a showdown fairly handily even though I’m closer ideologically to Cruz, but I would enthusiastically go to war in the general for either candidate, and either would be a great national messenger for conservative ideas. Moreover, either would present a clear contrast with Hillary both stylistically and substantively, giving a true conservative message its clearest chance for victory since 1980.
The battle royale of Cruz v. Rubio is coming. CNBC may have actually done us a favor by hastening its arrival.