Marco Rubio won the last Republican debate before Super Tuesday on Thursday (Feb. 25) — at least that’s how most of the pundits see it.
And now, new polling data from Real Clear Politics reveals that the win could be having a positive effect on his head-to-head polling against probable Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.
While Donald Trump — by all accounts the GOP front-runner — is winning the primaries, RCP shows that he would lose to Hillary by 2.8 percentage points in a general election.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas fares a little better, actually scoring a 0.8-point advantage. But when it comes to Marco Rubio, it’s not even close.
RCP shows that Rubio would beat Clinton by 4.7 percentage points if the election were held today, earning 47.5 percent to Hillary’s 42.8 percent.
On the Bernie Sanders match-ups, Trump would lose by 6 percentage points and Cruz would by 4.7. Rubio, once again, scores better in this department with a 44-44 percent tie.
RCP’s numbers are derived from an average of 45 other polls conducted by other media organizations, but there is already reason to doubt polling results, dating back to Ted Cruz’ surprise victory over Trump in Iowa.
Also, Sanders defied polls with two early surprises — his virtual tie with Clinton in Iowa, and his landslide victory in New Hampshire.
And with Trump’s current momentum going into Super Tuesday, it’s unlikely that Marco Rubio will even get the opportunity to run for President.
Slate reports that he is trailing Trump by 20 percentage points nationally, and by around 22 percentage points in his own state of Florida.
For Trump’s part, he is not taking any chances in his latest campaign speeches. He has targeted Marco Rubio for what the Donald calls a “debate meltdown” against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shortly before Christie bowed out of the race.
Marco Rubio, on the other hand, was able to turn that around on Trump at the last debate, and has since started to play Trump’s game of angry rhetoric, calling the former star of The Apprentice a “con artist” and slashing away at Trump’s spray tan.
The problem for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are the only two candidates left with a shot of unseating Trump from his front-runner status, is that they may have waited too long to make a difference in the race.
While Rubio is seeing the backing of the Republican National Committee and Cruz is holding firm in Texas, the two candidates may have fallen too far behind in the early primary races in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, to turn the tide.
More will be known on this Tuesday, March 1, when the GOP heads into “Super Tuesday” consisting of votes in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming and American Samoa.
If Cruz loses Texas, you can expect more of the GOP establishment to coalesce behind Marco Rubio. While the Texas Senator could probably survive losing his home state Tuesday, it would be a severe setback for his campaign.
Also, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson are likely finished if they continue to finish at the bottom of the pack on Tuesday.
All of this adds up to the reality that Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are the two men to beat in the GOP race, and if RCP is to be believed, Rubio is the new presidential front-runner.
But what do you think, readers?
Is Marco Rubio the person to take down Trump, and if so, what chance do you give him of beating Hillary Clinton in head-to-head competition?
Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Marco Rubio Facebook]