Poll Finds Kasich, Rubio Moving in Opposite Directions

logoby Patrick O’Connor, WSJ

Ohio governor leads Trump in Ohio and Florida senator trails businessman in his home state

The fortunes of Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio appear to be heading in opposite directions on the cusp of must-win primaries for both, a new poll finds.

Mr. Kasich narrowly leads the Republican field in his home state of Ohio ahead of a winner-take-all primary on Tuesday, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll shows. The governor is the preferred pick of 39% of likely primary voters, followed by businessman Donald Trump at 33% and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 19%.

The prospects aren’t quite so rosy for Mr. Rubio in Florida, the state he has represented in the Senate for five years. He trails Mr. Trump by 21 percentage points.

Mr. Trump has 43% support in Florida, well ahead of Mr. Rubio, who draws 22%. Mr. Cruz, with 21%, is essentially tied with Mr. Rubio.


The poll results represent something of a mixed blessing for Mr. Trump’s Republican detractors, who are trying to slow his march to the nomination. With a win in Ohio, Mr. Kasich can complicate the front-runner’s ability to collect the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination.

But Mr. Trump is well positioned to claim the day’s biggest prize, Florida’s 99 delegates. Like Ohio, Florida will award all its delegates to the winner of the statewide vote.

In Illinois, Mr. Trump leads the field as the top choice of 34% of likely Republican primary voters, followed by Mr. Cruz, at 25%, and Mr. Kasich at 21%. Mr. Rubio is in fourth place, with 16% support, but remains in the hunt for delegates under Illinois’ delegate-selection process.

The three states are among five that will hold primaries on Tuesday, allocating more delegates than any day on the nominating calendar except for March 1, Super Tuesday. Missouri and North Carolina also vote this Tuesday.

The new Journal/NBC/Marist poll suggests that Tuesday is shaping up to be another good day for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a margin of 61% to 34% among likely Democratic primary voters in Florida, the poll finds. Her lead is 20 points in Ohio, 58% to 38%.

The race is closer in Illinois, the state where Mrs. Clinton was born. She leads Mr. Sanders by 6 percentage points, 51% to 45%.

In addition to his traditional edge with younger voters and the party’s liberal wing, Mr. Sanders leads Mrs. Clinton among Latinos in Illinois by more than a two-to-one margin. That is more exception than rule in the primaries so far, as Mrs. Clinton typically dominates among nonwhite Democrats.

“We should know whether Hillary Clinton has regained her momentum,” Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said of the contests on Tuesday night. “We should also have a better sense of whether Donald Trump is on the path to his party’s nomination, or whether the GOP is staring at a contested convention in this unprecedented election cycle.”

The poll includes some warning signs for Mrs. Clinton, should she reach the general election. In test match-ups against some of the remaining Republicans, she trails Mr. Kasich by nearly 20 percentage points among registered voters in Ohio, one of the largest battleground states. Mr. Kasich has 57% in that hypothetical contest, to 36% for Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton also narrowly trails Mr. Cruz in Ohio, 47% to 45%, among registered voters. In Florida, she beats Mr. Cruz and runs even with Mr. Rubio.

The picture is different when Mrs. Clinton is matched against Mr. Trump: In the hypothetical races, the former secretary of state beats the Republican front-runner in all three states. Her margins, however, are in the single digits in Florida and Ohio.

Mr. Sanders beats Messrs. Trump and Cruz in all three states, the poll found. His margins over the potential GOP rivals are larger than in some cases than are those in matchups that include Mrs. Clinton, particularly in Illinois.

A loss in Florida, his home state, would end Mr. Rubio’s candidacy. If the Republican race became a three-man contest after Tuesday, fault lines familiar from the voting so far would remain the same, the new poll suggests.

Mr. Cruz typically beats Mr. Trump among the most conservative voters, while Mr. Kasich depends on more moderate Republicans, college graduates and women to build his support in the states where he has been able to get a serious look.

The Journal/NBC/Marist survey included 2,422 registered voters in Florida, 1,968 in Illinois and 2,052 in Ohio. The margin of error for all three voter groups was plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

The survey of Ohio included 453 likely Democratic and 564 likely Republican voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points for the Democratic sample and 4.1 points for the GOP sample.

The Illinois survey included 421 likely Republican and 529 likely Democratic voters. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 and 4.3 points, respectively, for those voter groups.

The Florida survey included 511 likely Republican and 500 likely Democratic voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 and 4.4 points, respectively, for those samples.

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