WSJ/NBC: Cruz surging, Trump falling

Yesterday we took a brief look at the latest Quinnipiac national poll of the standing of the candidates in the races for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations. The Quinnipiac poll covered the period February 10-15. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports the results of a new WSJ/NBC poll conducted nationally since the GOP presidential candidates’ debate on South Carolina this past Saturday, from February 14-16:

Support for Donald Trump among Republicans has declined in the past month, leaving him slightly behind Sen. Ted Cruz in the GOP presidential race, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted after a combative debate performance that may have soured some voters on the New York businessman.

Mr. Trump had enjoyed a double-digit lead over his rivals, but the new poll found support for him falling by seven percentage points since mid-January. Among registered voters who said they would participate in a GOP primary, he drew 26% support in the new poll, trailing Mr. Cruz, whose support rose by eight points to 28%. The survey, of 400 registered voters who said they would participate in a GOP primary, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points….

The poll found that Mr. Rubio had solidified his third-place position, rising four points in the past month to 17% support.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich jumped from the bottom tier of the field to fourth place, with 11%. He edged out retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who had 10% support in the new poll, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who slid to a low mark of 4%.

Despite the slightly different time periods covered by the polls, the Quinnipiac poll appears to conflict with this WSJ/NBC poll. The Quinippiac poll showed no movement away from Trump. On the contrary, Trump had slightly enhanced his lead over the rest of the GOP field. The WSJ/NBC poll suggests that the dynamics of the race are shifting and that the winnowing of the field will continue the shift. We need another poll or two to ascertain whether the shift is real or illusory.

It seems to me that Ben Carson, John Kasich and Jeb Bush need to exit the race for the good of the Republican Party. Their exit would facilitate the party’s coalescence around a candidate with the possible support of a majority in the party. Trump’s advantage in a splintered field is supported by this telling result: “The poll shows that if the primary came down to a head-to-head choice, both Mr. Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio could beat Mr. Trump by double-digit margins.”

Janet Hook’s Wall Street Journal story on the poll is here. It should be accessible via Google here.

UPDATE: Please note that the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll comports with the Quinnipiac poll and conflicts with WSJ/NBC’s. I cannot find the dates over which the Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted in the linked Reuters story.