Under the Dome

Four takeaways from NC’s latest presidential primary polls

Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, left, and Donald Trump talk before the start of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif.
Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, left, and Donald Trump talk before the start of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. AP

Two pollsters released voter surveys Wednesday of the presidential primaries in North Carolina, and both found sizable leads for Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling has Trump up 10 percentage points over Ted Cruz, who’s in second place in the state. And a Time Warner Cable News North Carolina poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, showed Trump with 36 percent support among likely GOP voters – double the support for Cruz and Rubio, who were tied.

On the Democratic side, the TWC poll showed Hillary Clinton with 51 percent, 15 percentage points ahead of Bernie Sanders. That tracks closely with PPP’s findings that show a 52-35 split between the two Democrats.

TWC News also polled voters on the Connect NC bond referendum, the governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race, but the network plans to release those results in the coming days on its nightly political show, Capital Tonight with Tim Boyum.

Trump and Clinton’s leads are hardly a surprise, so here’s a few more interesting takeaways from the two polls:

Carson still popular here: The convention wisdom nationally is that neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s campaign has been fading, and many have speculated that he could drop out soon.

But in North Carolina, he’s ahead of Jeb Bush in both polls. In the TWC poll, Carson is in fourth place with 10 percent, a few points ahead of Bush and John Kasich. PPP has Carson in fifth place, 2 points behind Kasich and 2 points ahead of Bush.

“Kasich and Bush would be heartbroken to learn that they’re running behind Carson,” said Jay Leve of SurveyUSA, who conducted the TWC poll. “Carson still has legacy support in the 10 percent range among voters who have heard his name, define him as the black candidate, and who haven’t been as focused on the contest. I don’t believe Carson will survive at 10 percent.”

Sanders strong against Republicans? While Sanders trails Clinton in polls of the primary match-up, the Vermont senator does well in head-to-head, hypothetical general election matches – a bit surprising for a self-described socialist.

TWC’s poll projects that Clinton would lose by 2 to 7 percentage points to Trump, Cruz or Rubio. But Sanders, according to the poll, would narrowly edge out Cruz and Rubio and tie Trump in North Carolina. PPP found similar results.

Leve cautions that the trend might not hold. “The numbers just mean that Clinton’s negatives are well known ... and Sanders’ negatives have not been highlighted by his Republican opponents,” he said.

Republican drop-outs could change the game: It’s likely that some of the Republican contenders could leave the race before North Carolina votes on March 15 – and which candidates remain could have a big impact on the final outcome here.

PPP polled several hypothetical one-on-one matches in the North Carolina primary. Only one candidate would beat Donald Trump in such a contest: Rubio, who leads the billionaire by 7 percentage points in the head-to-head poll.

A Trump-Cruz contest would be a statistical dead heat, and Bush would lose to Trump by 13 percentage points.

Bloomberg could be a spoiler: PPP polled hypothetical general election contests with Trump as the Republican nominee and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg running as an independent.

Bloomberg polled around 15 percent, apparently pulling enough support from Clinton and Sanders to give Trump a narrow win in North Carolina.

PPP also apparently can’t get enough of Deez Nuts, a fictional candidate the firm has jokingly polled before. Nuts received about 10 percent support in the latest poll as an independent candidate in the general election.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

N.C. presidential poll numbers

Time Warner Cable News/SurveyUSA

36% Trump

18% Cruz

18% Rubio

10% Carson

7% Kasich

5% Bush

51% Clinton

36% Sanders

Public Policy Polling

29% Trump

19% Cruz

16% Rubio

11% Kasich

9% Carson

7% Bush

52% Clinton

35% Sanders

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