The new Fox News poll, released late yesterday, is arguably the first major national survey conducted entirely after last week's Republican debate. It makes the latest findings that much more important.
1. Donald Trump: 26% (up two points since mid-October)
2. Ben Carson: 23% (unchanged)
3. Ted Cruz: 11% (up one point)
3. Marco Rubio: 11% (up two points)
5. Jeb Bush: 4% (down four points)
5. John Kasich: 4% (up three points)
5. Rand Paul: 4% (up one point)
5. Mike Huckabee: 4% (down one point)
The remaining candidates are at 3% or lower, including Carly Fiorina, whose support collapsed in recent weeks. Chris Christie only has 2%, which puts him in 10th place.
Trump's 26% is tied for the strongest support any candidate has had in a Fox News poll this year. (It's tied with Trump's showing in September.)
I'm a little surprised Rubio's showing isn't stronger in these results -- given the breadth of the media hype about his debate performance, I expected him to be closer to 20%. Instead, the Florida senator still has support that's less than half of Carson's and Trump's backing.
But even putting that aside, this poll in particular is more than a passing curiosity for many of the presidential hopefuls and their teams. In fact, as Rachel noted on the show last night, these specific results "may have a hugely important consequence on the race."
Why? It has everything to do with next week.
The fourth debate for the Republican presidential candidates is scheduled for next week in Milwaukee, to be aired on the Fox Business Network. Fox has been a little cagey on eligibility, but there's a national polling floor that candidates have to reach in order to participate in the main, prime-time event.
As Fox sees it, candidates must have national poll support averaging at least 2.5% in the four most recent national polls conducted through November 4th, which was yesterday. Fox hasn't specified which polls count, so analysis at this point requires some guess work.
That said, Chris Christie appears to fall just short of the threshold needed to make it onto the main stage. What's more, Bobby Jindal and George Pataki may not have enough support to even qualify for the kids-table debate held in advance of the prime-time event.
We'll find out for sure later this afternoon, and it's entirely possible Fox will fudge the numbers and give these candidates a hand. But if not, it's going to be that much more difficult for the New Jersey governor to tell would-be supporters that he's a real contender for the GOP nomination if he can't even make it to his party's debate stage.