On Monday, a new Monmouth poll was released that suddenly calls the inevitability of Donald Trump’s victory in Florida into question; the poll shows Marco Rubio, who had once trailed Trump by twenty percentage points, has closed the lead to eight points, and may have crushed Trump in early voting.
The poll of 403 likely GOP Florida voters showed Rubio garnering 48% of the early vote, as opposed to 23% for Trump. One out of every five Florida GOP voters voted early.
Among likely voters in general, the poll claimed Trump was supported by 38%, Rubio 30%, and Ted Cruz 17%. In central Florida, Trump led Rubio 44% to 22%, but in southern Florida, Rubio led 41% to 30%. In northern Florida they were nearly tied, with Trump gathering 36% to Rubio’s 32%.
Two factors are disturbing about the poll’s results for Trump supporters; first, Trump was expected to lead in early voting in Florida, as polls showed him with a substantial lead for months. Second, Trump has performed more poorly with election-day voters than polls would have suggested:
As Allahpundit at Hotair points out, Trump’s “trend line has been downward lately,” noting the latest evidence from Michigan. He also suggests that the small size of the Monmouth sample would normally be cause for doubt, but unlike other polls, the Monmouth poll took their sample from “a list of registered Republican voters, who participated in a primary election in 2012 or 2014 or voted in both of the last two general elections, and indicate they will vote in the presidential primary on March 15, 2016.”
That last fact is vital, as Florida is a closed primary, thus granting far more importance to a poll based on voters who have heretofore voted for the GOP. Independents and “Trump Democrats” cannot cross over to steal the primary for Trump.
Rubio has closed the lead to eight points, and may have crushed Trump in early voting.
Allahpundit cogently notes, “… polls that have used that more rigorous method of predicting actual voters next week tend to show a smaller lead for Trump than other polls do. Three separate surveys, one from Tarrance, one from AIF, and now this one from Monmouth, that have used the voter file for their sample show the race within single digits.”