Most people celebrate the holiday season with family, friends, food and fizzy beverages. But as you unwrapped presents near the fireplace and toasted New Year’s, presidential hopefuls crisscrossed early voting states and sent panicked fundraising emails before the ball dropped in Times Square.
We will find out if all of this effort was worth it once voters pick their favorites in Iowa and New Hampshire. But in the meantime, did anyone get a quick bump in the polls? In our weekly look at polling, InsideGov uses data from RealClearPolitics to get an idea of the current state of the presidential race.
Among Republicans, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump continue to build on their leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. After taking the top spot in Iowa on Dec. 12, Cruz has maintained a four-point lead over Trump, as of Jan. 2.
With Cruz and Trump virtually untouchable in first and second in Iowa, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio looks to take third place as Ben Carson continues his freefall in the polls. The retired neurosurgeon — who was in first place in Iowa and nationally in early November — saw three of his top campaign staffers resign on New Year’s Eve after the candidate promised some sort of shakeup within his operation. Carson is in seventh place in New Hampshire.
But Carson’s supporters aren’t deterred by his slide. The day before he resigned, campaign manager Barry Bennett said Carson’s team had raised about $23 million in the last quarter of 2015. Official numbers won’t be available from the Federal Election Commission until the end of January.
Previous Iowa favorites running again this cycle — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the caucuses in 2008 and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won in 2012 — barely register in this year’s crowded field. Despite strong numbers in the spring and summer, Huckabee currently sits at 2.6 percent. Santorum, coming in at 0.6 percent in the state, released an ad earlier this week that takes aim at Cruz. “You want someone to read one hell of a bedtime story? Ted Cruz is your guy,” the narrator says over footage of Cruz reading to his daughters, a reference to the frontrunner’s repeated use of Dr. Seuss on the national stage.
Being at the top of the heap always means fending off eager competitors. During a New Year’s Eve conference call with volunteers, Cruz warned his supporters to expect attack ads to start piling on. “Strap on the full armor of God. … We ain’t seen nothing yet,” he said during the call.
For his part, Cruz has been riffing off current events to keep his backers engaged as he aims to build on his momentum. In mid December, a Cruz fan created a Star Wars-themed movie poster and video called “The Constitution Strikes Back: Episode VIII, The Cruzade,” which the campaign used in a recent email to supporters. And in a nod to his base, Cruz is raffling off a shotgun engraved with his campaign logo. A few hours after President Barack Obama announced his plans to expand firearm background checks, Cruz’s campaign sent out an email with the subject line “gun grab” that encouraged people to enter the raffle to “protest Barack Obama’s latest anti-gun executive orders.”
Things look different in New Hampshire, site of the first primary votes of the election. As he has since the summer, Trump holds a formidable lead there. Cruz, Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all have a shot at a second-place finish.
Rubio has stayed ever-so-slightly above the pack in the Granite State, even though he hasn’t put in as much time there as some of the other candidates. He plans to amp up his presence there in the final weeks before the primary. California Rep. Darrell Issa is campaigning for Rubio this week in New Hampshire, too. And as InsideGov reported last week, Christie has been climbing in New Hampshire, thanks in large part to a pre-Christmas zap of support: first an endorsement from the New Hampshire Union Leader and then a supportive op-ed in that same paper from the leader of a New Jersey gun rights group.
Despite his status as the governor of a key swing state and his years as a former member of Congress, Kasich hasn’t made a big splash — he continues to hover in the low single digits in national polls. But in New Hampshire, he polls at 9.7 percent, well within striking distance of a solid finish there. Kasich will spend the first full week of January campaigning there.
Trump, who has so far sidestepped the trappings of a traditional political campaign, joined the conventional crowd and released his first television ad of the cycle. While the ad doesn’t attack any of his fellow Republicans, it’s a mishmash of some of the real estate tycoon’s more controversial positions, namechecking his suggested ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The spot will air in Iowa and New Hampshire, where Trump’s campaign announced it will spend at least a combined $2 million on ad time per week.
Although Trump and Cruz seem to be continuing their protracted political bromance, cracks may be developing in their delicate relationship. This week, Trump — who brought up questions in 2011 about Obama’s birth certificate — raised similar concerns about Cruz. Cruz, born in Canada to an American citizen, was a dual citizen of both countries until he renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014. In an interview Tuesday, Trump said Cruz’s birth in Alberta would be a “very precarious” issue for the Republican Party if Cruz became the presidential nominee. Cruz brushed off the concerns, but Trump, yet again, shrewdly injected doubts about a rival that are generating headlines and buzz.
Republican presidential candidates will be onstage together next week in South Carolina for their sixth primary debate of the cycle. Fox Business will host the Jan. 14 showing, and Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo will moderate, as they did during the Nov. 10 debate.
Follow InsideGov on Twitter: @inside_gov
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!