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Lots of chatter about Jeb!’s campaign running out of money and dropping out if he doesn’t finish well in SC:

Conventional wisdom says that Bush dropping out will increase support for Rubio, and that seems on the mark—it’s hard to imagine them jumping to Trump. Even still, Jeb’s poll numbers are consistently bad, so how much could Jeb dropping out really help Rubio? Let’s try an experiment.

Looking at the most conservative recent poll (in numbers, not ideology) from NBC/WSJ/Marist, we get this:

nbc sc poll

Just for fun, let’s pretend this poll will be 100% accurate regarding tomorrow’s turnout. Trump leads Rubio by 13%. If Jeb dropped out before the race and every single one of his voters went to Rubio, they’d be tied at 28%. Rubio would also need Kasich to drop out and take all his voters to have any sort of commanding lead with 37%. If we imagine Carson also dropped out and split his votes equally with Trump and Cruz, Trump would trail Rubio by only 4.5%. In SC that means something, since it’s a winner-take-all scenario, but we know that’s not going to happen and that Trump, unless he loses it to Cruz, is going to take those 50 delegates.

Remember: of recent polls, that one has the closest difference between Trump and Rubio. If we instead looked at something a little bit more in line with a lot of other polls, like Emerson, we get this:

emerson sc

Again, it’d take for both Jeb! and Kasich to drop out and to all go to Rubio (meaning no one sits out because they’re bummed their boy didn’t make it, and that none of them go to Trump and Cruz) for him to lead with 3%. But if we did the same bit again with Carson where his votes split with Cruz, Rubio and Trump tie.

In the two polls concerning Nevada, Trump is crushing it—and by extension Rubio. Here’s the first from Gravis:

gravis nevada

Of course these numbers are going to change, but if we want to just entertain ourselves, well… A 13% bump from Kasich and Bush isn’t going to help Rubio enough to come close to Trump. And the CNN poll is even worse:

  • Trump 45%
  • Rubio 19%
  • Cruz 17%
  • Carson 7%
  • Kasich 5%
  • Bush 1%

And how much would Bush and Kasich and Fiorina and Christie not participating in NH have helped Rubio?

nh primary

Oh, wow. Actually that would give Rubio about 49% of the vote. But know what? Fiorina and Christie dropping out hasn’t seemed to have helped him any (or at least very, very little). I do think Bush and Kasich retiring would be a big boost to Rubio’s numbers, and I’m sure media will do a lot to aid in his cause (be prepared—his impending third-place finish is another victory), but the question remains of just how much it can help, and whether or not they decide to stretch themselves to Super Tuesday. Another question is why Republicans voting for establishment candidates like Kasich and Bush haven’t figured out that they have no chance and won’t be pragmatic about it, strategically voting to undermine what I’m sure they see as the biggest threat right now: Trump.

It’s all uphill for Rubio. Not only does he need to take Kasich and Bush voters, but he needs to pray that Carson stays in a while longer, and also hope that no serious blow comes to the Cruz campaign. Maybe Cruz voters would go to Rubio, but I really have doubts about that.