Cruz enters top tier of GOP hopefuls

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest Republican national poll finds that Ted Cruz has the big momentum following the official announcement of his candidacy last week. His support has increased from 5% to 16% in just over a month, enough to make him one of three candidates in the top tier of GOP contenders, along with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush.

Walker continues to lead the field with 20%, although that’s down from his 25% standing a month ago. Bush continues to poll at 17%, followed by Cruz at 16%, Ben Carson and Rand Paul at 10%, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee at 6%, Chris Christie at 4%, and Rick Perry at 3%.

Cruz has really caught fire with voters identifying themselves as ‘very conservative’ since his announcement. After polling at only 11% with them a month ago, he now leads the GOP field with 33% to 25% for Walker and 12% for Carson with no one else in double digits. Last month Walker led with that group and almost all of the decline in his overall support over the last month has come within it as those folks have moved toward Cruz. Cruz’s name recognition with Republican voters has increased from 61% to 82% since his announcement. Besides Cruz the other candidate with momentum over the last month is Rand Paul. His support has increased from 4% to 10%.

Two candidates are clearly losing ground. The biggest is Ben Carson, who’s dropped from 18% to his new 10% standing. There’s a lot of overlap between the voters who like Carson and the voters who like Cruz and where previously they’d been naming Carson as their first choice the momentum for Cruz lately seems to have really cut into Carson’s support. The other potential candidate who seems to be losing some steam is Mike Huckabee. A month ago he was at 10%, but now his standing has declined to 6%.

Jeb Bush and Chris Christie have pretty much stayed in place compared to a month ago but there are some definite red flags within their favorability numbers. Christie now finds himself with only 24% of GOP primary voters viewing him positively to 57% who have a negative opinion. Every month it seems he just becomes more and more unpopular.

Bush only has a narrowly positive favorability rating with 39% of voters giving him good marks to 37% who have an unfavorable opinion. Bush’s struggles are coming with the furthest right segment of the Republican primary electorate- only 27% of ‘very conservative’ GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him to 55% with a negative one. And just 4% of voters within that group say they support him for the nomination. Bush has a lot of work to do with conservatives if he’s going to be successful next winter and spring.

One other thing to keep an eye on within these numbers- Marco Rubio has the highest favorability of any of the Republicans hopefuls we tested, with 55% of GOP primary voters giving him good marks. He’s not that many people’s first choice right now, but having so many voters with a positive opinion of him leaves him well positioned to benefit if/when other contenders stumble in the months ahead.

Full results here

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