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Trump, Rubio and Cruz (an unlimited liability partnership)

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Ezra Klein interviews political scientist Alan Abramowitz:

I certainly don’t think [Trump is] a strong favorite, but there’s no way of really coming up with an accurate prediction of these things. Forecasting nomination contests is a fool’s game, I think. I saw what Nate Silver posted on FiveThirtyEight, and what he’s saying is reasonable based on the history of these presidential nominations, but there are a couple things I think are different this year.

Silver makes the case that the polls at this point don’t necessarily mean much, and you can get big swings in voter preferences in relatively short periods of time. And that’s true. What I think is different is Republicans are tuned in to a much greater degree than they were at this point in previous nomination contests. You can see that in polling when you ask whether voters are paying attention, and you can see that in ratings for the debates. The idea that voters aren’t tuned in yet and won’t make up their minds till January or later may not prove as true as it has in the past.

Because of the higher level of interest and attention this year, these early polls may be more predictive of what’s likely to happen.

The second point is Trump isn’t only leading in national polling. He’s leading in every state poll I’ve seen. He seems to be ahead in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, Nevada.

Voters say he’s a strong leader who will shake up Washington, and that’s what they want. He’s the leader on big issues like immigration, terrorism, the economy. And the Washington Post/ABC News poll found a plurality — even more voters than actually support him — think he’s the candidate with the best chance of winning in November.

If Trump does start to fade out, the good news, from the standpoint of Republican leaders and strategists, is that Ben Carson seems to be beginning to fade in support. The bad news is that the guy who is really well-positioned to pick up Carson and even Trump supporters is Ted Cruz. And Cruz right now is right on Trump’s heels in Iowa. He has a very strong organization there, and it’s an electorate he could do very well with.

So, to me right now, it looks like there are three potential Republican nominees, and that would be Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.

Klein acknowledges that a lot of pundits, including himself, “have a sort of Underpants Gnomes theory of Marco Rubio’s chances. Step one is Rubio is the only acceptable nominee to Republican elites. Step two is … something. And step three is Rubio wins the nomination.”

The impending conclusion of the Ben Carson Griftathon has cemented Cruz as the other anti-establishment alternative to Rubio, thereby complicating things further. Right now I’d say it’s difficult to predict which of these three candidates will win, but I think it’s fair to say that all three have a very real shot, including Der Donald.

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