Dominionist presidential candidate Ted Cruz has overtaken Donald Trump for the first time in a national poll.
Published Wednesday, the survey of 400 likely GOP primary voters shows Cruz leading the reality show candidate 28 percent to 26 percent. It is the first nationwide poll to be conducted entirely after last Saturday’s rancorous Republican debate.
Just a month ago, the same NBC/Wall Street Journal survey showed Trump beating Cruz by thirteen points.
Speaking to NBC, Republican pollster Bill McInturff explained that the sudden change might be a result of the nasty personal attacks voters saw last Saturday.
“When you see a number this different, it means you might be right on top of a shift in the campaign. What you don’t know yet is if the change is going to take place or if it is a momentary ‘pause’ before the numbers snap back into place,” he said.
McInturff added, “So, one poll post-Saturday debate can only reflect there may have been a ‘pause’ as Republican voters take another look at Trump. This happened earlier this summer and he bounced back stronger. We will have to wait this time and see what voters decide.”
Indeed, Republican focus-group guru Frank Luntz worried aloud that the contentious debate would result in the election of a Democrat.
According to NBC, other possible explanations include a survey sample that counted too many “very conservative” voters. If the results are re-weighed to match the true ideological picture of American voters, Trump leads by one point, which is still a drop from his wider lead one month ago.
There is another potential reason for the shift: Cruz has a far more advanced data operation than Trump. Microtargeting firm Cambridge Analytica, in which Cruz super PAC kingpin Robert Mercer is reportedly a key investor, has been credited with making his come-from-behind victory in Iowa possible.
But it’s also important to note that the two-point gap between the candidates falls within the poll’s margin of error. Furthermore, Trump is still leading in both South Carolina and Nevada, which are the next two states to hold nominating ballots.
Nevertheless, Cruz immediately trumpeted the good news as a sign that his campaign is surging.
“The sound you’re hearing is the sound of screams coming from Washington, D.C.,” Cruz told supporters at a rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on Wednesday afternoon. “But what’s happening nationally is indicative of the stakes in this race.”