Jeb Bush's Florida Lead Dwindles as Ted Cruz Rides Presidential Announcement Bump

As Jeb Bush has learned on the turn of April Fool's Day, it's never too early in a presidential campaign to have a rough week. With Bush backpedalling on his support for Indiana's hotly contested gay discrimination law and rival Ted Cruz riding a surge off his official announcement, Jeb's once commanding lead in key primary states has disappeared, a pair of new polls today finds.

Though Jeb still leads his native Florida, even the Sunshine State race is tightening up, with his support from Republican voters dipping nearly 10 points and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker close on his heels.

"The Wisconsin governor has climbed into the first tier of contenders along with establishment favorite Jeb Bush, who can’t be happy with his numbers today,” Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, says this morning of the new poll

The latest numbers from Quinnipiac University, which sampled just over 1,000 registered voters at the end of March, finds Bush with 24 percent support in Florida; that's down from 32 percent last month in the last Q-poll. Walker clocks in at second with 15 percent, while Sen. Marco Rubio is still a distant third at 12 percent. (Though that could change in a hurry with Rubio making an April 13 announcement here in Miami on his presidential run.)
Bush's numbers are even more dire in the rest of the key primary states, Quinnipiac finds. Bush is essentially tied in Ohio with Walker, Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, all of whom trail that state's Gov. John Kasich's 20 percent support. In Pennsylvania, Jeb is locked with former Sen. Rick Santorum and Florida-based doctor Ben Carson, all of whom trail Walker's 14 percent backing.

A lot could change quickly in each of those states, but the poll cements the growing consensus that no one is going to run away with the GOP nomination — even if Bush has been fundraising like a madman for months.

A separate new poll from Public Policy Polling adds to that consensus and shows that Cruz is back in the game thanks to his official presidential bid announced at Liberty University last week.

PPP surveyed more than 500 registered Republicans for their poll and found Bush, Walker and Cruz all at the top of the field within the 4.7 percent margin of error. Walker led at 20 percent, with Bush next at 17 and Cruz at 16 percent. Rubio landed just six percent in that poll.
Bush also seems to be a more polarizing figure, PPP found, with a nearly even favorability/unfavorability split at 38-37 percent. Rubio, by comparison, is viewed favorably by 55 percent of voters and unfavorably by just 28 percent. 

Who knows how Rubio's official entry to the race in just over a week will shake up the field, but if Cruz's numbers this week are any indication, the GOP primary horse race is going to get even tighter at the top. 
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink