Donald Trump’s Lead in South Carolina Narrows as Conservatives Turn to Ted Cruz, Poll Finds
Among Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton maintains a wide lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders
South Carolina's Republican voters have a reputation for picking winners, and a new NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll shows a tightening race ahead of Saturday's primary. WSJ Shelby Holliday looks at which candidates are positioned to win a diverse group of GOP voters in South Carolina. Photo: AP
Donald Trump’s lead in South Carolina has narrowed ahead of Saturday’s primary, as many of the party’s most conservative voters turn instead to Sen. Ted Cruz, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll finds.
The poll found that support for Mr. Trump dropped to 28% among likely Republican voters in South Carolina, down 8 points from January, while support for Mr. Cruz rose slightly to 23%. What had been a 16-point lead for Mr. Trump is now 5 points.
The rest of the GOP field remained bunched at a distance from the top two contenders: Sen. Marco Rubio drew 15%; former Gov. Jeb Bush had 13%; and Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson each had 9%.
One question heading into Saturday’s voting is whether the primary will establish a clear front-runner among the field’s centrist, establishment-friendly candidates. But the close showings by Messrs. Rubio and Bush in the poll suggest that South Carolina voters could leave it to a future contest to winnow the field.
Among Democrats, the poll showed that Hillary Clinton maintains a wide lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, signaling that the state’s primary could help stabilize her campaign after a lopsided loss in New Hampshire and a narrow win in Iowa.
Democrats hold their primary in South Carolina on Feb. 27.
The report of a Trump decline among South Carolina Republicans came a day after a WSJ/NBC News poll of Republican primary voters nationally found that he had lost his once-commanding lead and fallen narrowly behind Mr. Cruz. Most national polls and South Carolina surveys have been showing Mr. Trump with a double-digit lead over his rivals.
The new Journal/NBC/Marist poll in South Carolina was conducted Feb. 15-17, after Mr. Trump drew attention and criticism for an especially aggressive performance during a televised debate among the GOP candidates.