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Marco Rubio Stole Ted Cruz’s Iowa Bounce

HOLLIS, N.H. — A candidate is moving up in the New Hampshire polls — but it’s the man who finished third in the Iowa Republican caucuses, Marco Rubio, and not the Iowa winner, Ted Cruz. Below is a comparison of our New Hampshire weighted polling average as it was on Feb. 1, the date of the caucuses, and where it stood as of 2 p.m. today (Feb. 5):

Trump 32.6 30.5 -2.1
Rubio 10.2 16.3 +6.1
Cruz 12.0 12.4 +0.4
Kasich 11.4 11.1 -0.3
Bush 9.3 9.0 -0.3
Christie 6.8 5.5 -1.3
Carson 3.9 3.9
Fiorina 3.6 3.9 +0.3
New Hampshire polling average, before and after Iowa

Rubio has gained about 6 percentage points in the New Hampshire polls, while Donald Trump has lost 2 points (although Trump remains the favorite here). There’s still a tiny bit of pre-Iowa data in the polling average, and the numbers will undoubtedly shift around a few points over the weekend. But if any candidate were emerging with massive momentum as a result of his Iowa performance, we probably would have seen it by now.

Cruz isn’t. In fact, his numbers haven’t really moved at all. He’s polling at 12.4 percent today, versus 12.0 percent before Iowa. Usually, candidates get polling bounces after they win Iowa, especially if they also outperform their polls, as Cruz did.

So what’s the problem? One answer is that Iowa and New Hampshire are famously incompatible on the Republican side; no non-incumbent Republican has ever won both states. But from what we can tell,1 Cruz’s bounce in the national polls is also quite small. So there are other issues also at work.

The many storylines coming out of Iowa might have hurt Cruz — he was competing for media attention with Rubio, Trump and the near-tie on the Democratic side between HIllary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He probably didn’t help matters by waiting until so late Monday evening to speak, and then not being all that effective when he did so.

The “dirty tricks” allegations against Cruz — his campaign falsely implied to some caucus-goers that Ben Carson had suspended his campaign, and issued misleading “voter violation” mailers that drew the ire of Iowa’s secretary of state — may also have lessened Cruz’s buzz and tainted his win.

But to take a slightly broader view, Cruz may have less of a bounce after Iowa because Republican “party elites” just don’t like him very much and didn’t want him to get one. Cruz has received just one new endorsement since Iowa, while Rubio has gotten nine (along with lots of favorable media coverage). Meanwhile, party elites like Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad are still talking about Cruz’s “unethical and unfair” tactics in Iowa, ensuring that storyline stays in voters’ minds.

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  1. There have only been a couple of new national surveys since Iowa.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.