A new poll shows a troubling trend for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who no longer has a lock on his home state. The Emerson College poll released Wednesday afternoon shows the top three contenders -- Cruz, along with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump -- in a statistical tie.
- Ted Cruz: 29%
- Donald Trump: 28%
- Marco Rubio: 25%
- John Kasich: 9%
- Ben Carson: 4%
Considering the poll's margin of error, the three candidates are all in a statistical tie. Further, sources close to two of the Republican presidential campaigns suggest that their internal poll numbers are showing a similar trend, with Cruz, Rubio, and Trump all close contenders to win Texas.
The poll was conducted from February 21 to February 23 of 446 likely Texas Republican primary voters.
Among the top three contenders, poll respondents viewed Rubio the most positively. Trump was the only candidate who was underwater with his favorability numbers.
- Rubio: 64% favorable, 29% unfavorable
- Cruz: 56% favorable, 41% unfavorable
- Trump: 45% favorable, 50% unfavorable
One shocking number from the Emerson poll crosstabs (full data available here) is the response to who is the "least honest" candidate. Cruz was selected as the least honest by 37% of his home state's Republican voters, followed closely by Trump at 35%. Rubio was viewed as the least honest by 17%, and Kasich and Carson were each picked by 6%.
Cruz's poor ratings on the honesty scale may likely stem from a flurry of stories (here, here, here, and here) surrounding his campaign's tactics and aggressive attacks. Such stories ultimately led to the dismissal of Cruz' communications director, Rick Tyler. As a result, Cruz has spent as much, if not more, time fighting the narrative that he is running a dishonest campaign as he has fighting his opponents.
RedState Managing Editor Leon Wolf expressed shock at this poll, writing earlier Wednesday that if its results are accurate, then it "pretty much spells the end of the line for Cruz." The trends are also in Rubio's favor, wrote Wolf:
Rubio has the highest favorability rating of all the candidates, including Cruz, suggesting that he has the biggest room for growth. When you add in the fact that Rubio has been killing it with late deciders in 3 of the 4 primary contests thus far, it suggests that Rubio could make Texas surprisingly competitive or even win it.
Lubbock talk radio host Chad Hasty also agreed that this poll meant that Cruz was "in danger of losing Texas to Donald Trump while Marco Rubio isn't far behind." Hasty notes that a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll conducted earlier this month (February 12 - February 19) showed a stronger lead for Cruz at 37% to Trump's 29% and Rubio's 15%:
The UT/Texas Tribune poll was taken before Jeb Bush dropped out of the race and it appears that the majority of his Texas supporters drifted to Rubio, but Rubio seems to have also won over some Cruz voters as well. Trump's numbers, meanwhile, have remained static.
Tonight the Harris County (Houston) Republican Party is holding their Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, where Cruz and possibly some of the other candidates are expected to speak. Houston will also be the site tomorrow for the next Republican debate, sponsored by CNN, Telemundo, Salem Media Group and the Republican National Committee. Independent Journal Review will be on site covering these events.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.