To quote that brilliant philosopher Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles, “What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is going on here?”
A new NBC poll shows Donald Trump in second place trailing Ted Cruz in the GOP nomination fight by two points, 28-26%.
Except two other respected polling outfits also released national GOP presidential polls on Wednesday and they show Trump with a huge lead.
First, the NBC poll:
The results from the poll — conducted after Trump’s victory in New Hampshire and Saturday’s GOP debate in South Carolina — are a significant reversal from last month, when Trump held a 13-point lead over Cruz, 33 percent to 20 percent.
In the poll, Cruz is the first choice of 28 percent of Republican primary voters, while Trump gets 26 percent. They’re followed by Marco Rubio at 17 percent, John Kasich at 11 percent, Ben Carson at 10 percent and Jeb Bush at 4 percent.
Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his firm Hart Research Associates, says Trump’s drop could signal being “right on top of a shift in the campaign.”
“When you see a number this different, it means you might be right on top of a shift in the campaign. What you don’t know yet is if the change is going to take place or if it is a momentary ‘pause’ before the numbers snap back into place,” he said.
McInturff added, “So, one poll post-Saturday debate can only reflect there may have been a ‘pause’ as Republican voters take another look at Trump. This happened earlier this summer and he bounced back stronger. We will have to wait this time and see what voters decide.”
What’s interesting is that the other two polls — from Quinnipiac and USA Today — were conducted partially before the GOP South Carolina debate. Quinnipiac has Trump a comfortable 20 points ahead of Cruz, while USA Today has a slightly smaller lead for Trump of 15 points.
A 15-point swing in the NBC poll is dramatic, to be sure. But pollsters have been all over the lot in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Should we expect anything different in South Carolina?
Two possible explanations for the polling problems are more late deciders and switchers this cycle than normal, and the growing effectiveness of get-out-the-vote operations that maximize their utilization of social media. Ted Cruz surprised in Iowa because of his massive, well-coordinated ground game that pollsters failed to catch before caucus night. It was easily worth 5 points to him.
Of course, the best advice is to ignore the polls and vote your preference. But as we move further into the nomination race, I have a feeling polls are going to get screwier and screwier, making the race more unpredictable and more competitive.