Republican presidential candidates, from left, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas.
Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP

Latest GOP poll shows establishment-backed candidates trailing

As New Hampshire polling goes, the new Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey will probably reinforce the Republican establishment’s biggest fears.
1. Donald Trump: 26% (down from 28% in October)
2. Ted Cruz: 12% (up from 5%)
2. Marco Rubio: 12% (up from 6%)
4. Chris Christie: 11% (up from 3%)
5. Jeb Bush: 10% (up from 9%)
6. John Kasich: 8% (up from 6%)
7. Carly Fiorina: 6% (down from 10%)
The remaining candidates were each at 5% support or lower, including Ben Carson, who was in second place with 16% just a couple of months ago.
In terms of shifts, Cruz and Christie are clearly the biggest movers in this poll, which is roughly consistent with other recent data.
But the broader takeaway is the fact that the Republican establishment is divided, and the result is a gift for the GOP frontrunner.
In this poll, Trump’s at 26%, which is exactly in line with his overall average in all New Hampshire polling. It’s the same average he maintained in the Granite State last month, and the month before that, and the month before that.
At the same time, however, the race for second place in New Hampshire has suddenly grown quite crowded, with five candidates separated in this poll by only four percentage points, and four candidates separated by only two percentage points.
Rubio, Christie, and Bush are all in double digits, and combine for 33% support among New Hampshire Republicans – well ahead of Trump’s 26%. But because this constituency is split in so many directions, the New York developer/reality-show host is still able to lap the field.
So, from the GOP establishment’s perspective, the good news is Trump appears, at least for now, to have hit a ceiling of sorts in the first primary state. The bad news is, none of his rivals is close to catching up to him.