Swing State Pres

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Who Really Won the GOP Debate?

Look out!  Election Day is one year away...and look to the right if you want an even more precise countdown!

The verdict after the October 28th GOP debate was swift and clear:  Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz “won” the debate, and Jeb Bush “lost” it.  The pundits were unanimous.  Social media’s verdict was the same.  Instant debate polling, both scientific and otherwise, also supported the storyline.

But do the numbers that really count – pre-debate versus post-debate polling – bear out these conclusions?   Yes, in part.  Rubio and Cruz showed the largest pre/post gains, with Cruz picking up three points in each of the national, Iowa and New Hampshire polls (see chart below).  Rubio did about the same in Iowa and New Hampshire, though with little change nationally.  So they, indeed, clearly “won.”

Jeb Bush lost a point nationally and in Iowa, and two points in New Hampshire.  This is far better than one might have expected given the savaging of his performance.  Bush’s problem is not that the debate was a disaster, it is that he is trending in single digits and needs the kind of debate performance that will propel him upward.  So he lost in the sense that treading water is unacceptable at this point.

But there were other clear winners and losers as well that received little attention.

Chris Christie and John Kasich did very well in New Hampshire, rising +4 and +3 points respectively, in the state in which they have each pushed in all of their chips.  They took a big bite out of Donald Trump, who lost 8 points in the Granite State, and that overall race appears to have tightened considerably.

Carly Fiorina was a loser.  Her debate performance was off her A Game, exhibited in the first two debates, which had propelled her into the conversation.  She lost two points both nationally and in New Hampshire, and has squandered the momentum she generated over the last two months.  Her weakest moments were two particular claims:  “I can assure you:  I am Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare.”  Really?  I seriously doubt it.  I think Hillary’s worst nightmare for 2016 has something to do with Bubba.

And Ben Carson took a hit in Iowa, losing 4 points, and is now tied with Trump in the low ‘20’s, with Cruz and Rubio looming larger in their rear view mirror.

Here are the various gains and losses by each candidate (I eliminated the lesser candidates, none of whom moved significantly from their positions in the nether region of single digits everywhere):

PERCENTAGE POINT CHANGE IN POLLS:
Pre-debate versus Post-debate polls
NAT'L
IOWA
NH
TOTAL
Cruz
3
3
3
9
Rubio
1
3
4
8
Christie
0
2
4
6
Kasich
0
0
3
3
Huckabee
-1
1
0
0
Carson
1
-4
2
-1
Paul
0
-1
-1
-2
Fiorina
-2
0
-2
-4
Bush
-1
-1
-2
-4
Trump
-1
4
-8
-5

And here are the latest absolute numbers (from which the above chart was derived).  And the bottom line is, with two and a half months until Iowa, Donald Trump remains on top.  He is still leading the national field comfortably, has regained a tie in Iowa, and while slipping in New Hampshire, remains atop that field too.  So perhaps, from this overall standpoint, he won something in the debate as well.  And that is, credibility as the party nominee.  Could he win the GOP nomination?  At this point, anything can happen….including that.

NATIONAL
Oct '15
Post-debate
IOWA
Oct '15
Post-debate
NH
Oct '15
Post-debate
Trump
29
28
Carson
28
24
Trump
30
22
Carson
20
21
Trump
20
24
Carson
14
16
Rubio
9
10
Rubio
10
13
Rubio
8
12
Cruz
6
9
Cruz
9
12
Kasich
8
11
Bush
8
7
Bush
7
6
Cruz
5
8
Fiorina
6
4
Fiorina
5
5
Bush
9
7
Huckabee
4
3
Jindal
3
3
Christie
3
7
Paul
3
3
Huckabee
2
3
Fiorina
8
6
Christie
3
3
Christie
1
3
Paul
4
3
Kasich
3
3
Paul
3
2
Huckabee
1
1
Jindal
1
1
Kasich
2
2
Jindal
0
1
Santorum
1
0
Santorum
1
1
Pataki
0
1
Graham
1
0
Graham
0
1
Graham
1
0
Pataki
0
0
Gilmore
0
0
Santorum
1
0
Gilmore
0
0
Pataki
0
0
Gilmore
0
0
Other/NA
6
8
Other/NA
9
1
Other/NA
8
5


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