Carly Fiorina has owned the post-debate hype, but another candidate has also gained significantly since the Reagan Library dust-up: Marco Rubio.
Rubio was lagging in the polls taken in the weeks leading up the the debate. In five national polls released between August 30 and September 17, Rubio averaged a mere 5.6 percent, placing him in 5th. In the six polls taken and released after the debate, Rubio has averaged 9.4 percent, moving him up to 4th.
We see the same post-debate movement in state polls, too. He averaged a mere 2.75 percent in four pre-debate New Hampshire polls, placing him in a tie for 8th place. But he shot up to 9 percent in the recent CNN/WMUR poll, good enough for third place. He’s moved from 5 percent and 6th place in Iowa to 8 percent and 4th place; from 7 percent and 5th place in his native Florida to 15 percent and a tie for fourth. He’s also running 4th in Georgia and North Carolina, and 3d in Wisconsin following Governor Walker’s departure.
Rubio thus has supplanted Jeb Bush as the leader among contenders who were previously elected to office. He also has more room to grow than Jeb, as national and state polls regularly show that Rubio is much more popular than Jeb among Republican primary voters. This is especially true among very conservative and Tea Party voters, who consistently give Jeb low marks in both favorability and voter preference questions.
It’s probably no surprise, then, that other candidates are starting to take aim at Rubio. Trump has earned the most press (as usual) with his attacks, which Rubio has parried. Bush joined The Donald yesterday with a subtle jab at Rubio as someone who followed Jeb’s lead in Florida.
One debate does not a campaign make, but it’s inconceivable that Republicans, the party famously known for choosing the person “next in line” as their nominee, will ignore the line completely in favor of unelected queue-jumpers. Thus, while the battle among the electeds to see who emerges as the insider candidate looks right now to be the undercard, history tells us it might end up to be the most important fight of all. And as of today, Marco Rubio is ahead on points.