Ted Cruz has surged to a statistical tie with Donald Trump among Republicans in California, while Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have tumbled in this late-voting state, according to a new poll.
The Field Poll, released Tuesday, reflects Cruz’s momentum nationally in the crowded Republican presidential field. While the Texas senator lags behind Trump in New Hampshire and national polls, he has pushed ahead in Iowa, which holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 1.
Cruz, a favorite of evangelicals and tea party conservatives, is the first choice of 25 percent of likely Republican voters in California, according to the poll. Trump stands at 23 percent, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is running third at 13 percent. The difference between Cruz’s and Trump’s numbers is within the poll’s margin of error.
The poll follows a turbulent fall in the presidential campaign, with candidates’ prospects turning by the week. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive, polled at 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in October. Both have dropped down into single digits in California, with Carson at 9 percent support and Fiorina at 3 percent.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, once among the front-runners in California, is now the first choice of just 4 percent of likely Republican voters in the state.
While Bush, Carson and Fiorina faltered, Cruz gained nearly 20 percentage points from October. Not only did he catch Trump in first-choice rankings, but he is now twice as likely as the real estate developer and TV personality to be listed as a California Republicans’ second preference.
That measurement could factor heavily as more candidates drop out and the field narrows.
“What you see is that beyond just the horse race, where (Cruz) is in a statistical tie with Trump, he seems to be much better positioned to be the beneficiary of the declining fortunes of other candidates,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “He seems to be the candidate who is best positioned to capture even more support from other candidates as the field winnows.”
(Cruz) seems to be the candidate who is best positioned to capture even more support from other candidates as the field winnows.
Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo
Though California stands out as a lucrative donor state in presidential politics, it is unclear if its electorate will matter in this year’s primaries. The state’s June contest comes so late in the nominating process that other states often settle the field before voting reaches California. Voters here have little exposure to the candidates beyond national news reports.
“By the time we get to California, if there is still a race going on – and maybe there will be this year – the field will be smaller,” DiCamillo said. “It’ll be three, four or five candidates at the most.”
Daniel Matthews, a retired technical writer and tea party organizer in Rocklin, said he would be happy if either Trump or Cruz wins the nomination. But Matthews, a poll respondent, said he’s most impressed with Cruz.
“First of all, he’s a Christian,” said Matthews, 74. “And second of all, he sticks to his values … Cruz has just been a positive 100 percent conservative.”
Trump’s political inexperience and controversial statements about immigration, among other subjects, has generated more anxiety about his candidacy than other candidates. Forty-three percent of likely Republican voters say they would be dissatisfied or upset if he became the party’s nominee.
Kathryn Sidman, a Republican from rural Fresno County, hasn’t decided who to support yet. Sidman, 65, called called Trump “interesting” but said, “I don’t know if I would want him as my president.”
“He’d have to really convince me,” she said.