The pattern has been the same throughout this campaign season. After each big primary, I look at the polling for the next major contest — e.g., Florida, South Carolina, or Michigan — and see Donald Trump leading by around 15 points. As the primary approaches, there is talk that the gap might be narrowing, and on election day we hear that the late voters have broken in favor of a non-Trump option. Yet in the end, Trump wins comfortably.
But now, a look at polling for Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two huge upcoming primaries, suggests that Trump is vulnerable. Moreover, one national poll indicates the same thing.
The next big primary will be in Wisconsin on April 5. A poll by Basewood Research conducted for the Washington Free Beacon shows Ted Cruz in the lead at 36.2 percent, compared to 31.4 for Trump and 20.8 percent for John Kasich. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.
In a head-to-head race between Cruz and Trump, the Texas man leads 47.8 to 36.2. To be sure, Kasich isn’t going to drop out before the Wisconsin race. However, perhaps some of his backers will vote “strategically,” in other words for Cruz — the candidate who can defeat Trump in this particular contest.
Wisconsin is an open primary. Trump has had the edge in such races thanks to his comparatively strong support among Democrats and independents. Republicans made up only 72 percent of the Free Beacon’s sample, yet Cruz still outdistanced Trump.
In another survey of Wisconsin, conducted this week by Emerson, Cruz leads Trump, albeit by only one point. The poll also puts Cruz just one point behind Hillary Clinton in a general election match-up. Trump, by contrast, trails Clinton by 9 points.
After Wisconsin comes the New York primary. Trump is heavily favored in his home state.
A week later, Pennsylvania votes. A Franklin & Marshall poll has Trump ahead in Pennsylvania but only by three points, within the margin of error. According to the survey, Trump is at 33 percent; Kasich at 30 percent; and Cruz at 20 percent.
Pennsylvania’s primary is closed. The winner is awarded 17 of the 71 delegates. The remainder are allocated through a complicated process. So even if Trump holds off Kasich and Cruz, his delegate haul might not be that impressive.
Finally, a Fox News national poll suggests that Cruz is closing in on Trump. The tycoon’s lead is only 41-38, with Kasich at 17 percent.
Trump fares better in a Bloomberg poll. It has Trump at 40 percent; Cruz at 31; and Kasich at 25. I’m more suspicious of the Kasich number (too high, I think) than of the nine point spread between Trump and Cruz.
Whether one looks at national polling, Pennsylvania polling, or Wisconsin polling, one sees Trump trending downward a bit. So maybe, just maybe, Republicans are gradually waking up to the menace Trump poses to both the GOP and the nation.