PPP's new North Carolina poll finds yet another state where Donald Trump holds a double digit lead- but also shows the path if establishment Republicans are ever going to be able to stop Trump.
Trump leads with 29% to 19% for Ted Cruz, 16% for Marco Rubio, 11% for John Kasich, 9% for Ben Carson, and 7% for Jeb Bush. Trump's actually seen a 9 point decline from his standing in the state last month. Kasich has the most momentum, with a 9 point increase in his support. Rubio is up 5 points and Cruz is up 3 points compared to last month, while Carson and Bush have pretty much stayed in place.
The race in North Carolina is pretty fluid though. 47% of voters say they might still change their minds between now and the primary in four weeks. The field could be smaller by then too, and that could give Trump trouble. Getting the candidate pool down to 3 or 4 might not be enough though. In a four person field Trump gets 34% to 24% for Cruz, 19% for Rubio, and 11% for Bush. In a three candidate field Trump holds on to a double digit advantage as well, getting 37% to 26% each for Rubio and Cruz. In a one on one with either Cruz or Rubio things get a lot tougher for Trump though. He leads Cruz only 43/42, and trails Rubio 49/43 one on one. Rubio wins over supporters of Cruz (73/25), Kasich (64/17), Bush (61/24), and Carson (48/38) overwhelmingly if the field gets down to the two of them. A one on one race may be the only thing that can actually stop Trump.
Rubio's the most viable challenger to Trump because he's the most popular of the three serious candidates. His 58/26 favorability is far better than Cruz's 47/36 or Trump's 46/43, and that makes it easier for him to absorb other candidates' supporters. Carson has the best favorability in NC at 63/21- showing the limits of favorability ratings. Kasich comes in at 45/24 and Bush continues to be under water at 35/45.
One big thing Trump has going for him is that he has the most committed supporters. 68% of his voters say they'll definitely end up casting their ballot for him, while none of the other candidates have more than 51% of their voters saying they're 'firmly committed' to them.
On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton still has a substantial lead, but things are tightening. Clinton has 52% to 35% for Bernie Sanders. The race is essentially tied among white voters- Clinton 43, Sanders 42- but Clinton continues to have a substantial advantage with African Americans at 64/24. Those splits are very similar to what we found for Clinton and Sanders in South Carolina. Clinton led 59/26 a month ago and Sanders is making progress in the state both with white and black voters.