On the day of the Iowa caucuses, the political world is understandably focused on the nation's first nominating contest, and the latest polling offers some hints about what to expect tonight. But the second contest -- the New Hampshire primary -- is a week from tomorrow, and it too will bring the 2016 race into sharper focus.
With eight days remaining, how is the GOP race shaping up? Three new polls offer grist for the mill. Let's start with the new Franklin Pierce University-Boston Herald poll, which found five Republicans with support above 5%.
1. Donald Trump: 38% (up from 33% from the week before)
2. Ted Cruz: 13% (down from 14%)
3. Jeb Bush: 10% (up from 9%)
3. Marco Rubio: 10% (up from 8%)
5. John Kasich: 8% (down from 12%)
There's also the new CNN poll:
1. Donald Trump: 30% (down from 36% from mid-January)
2. Ted Cruz: 12% (down from 14%)
3. Marco Rubio: 11% (up from 10%)
4. John Kasich: 9% (up from 6%)
5. Chris Christie: 8% (up from 6%)
6. Jeb Bush: 6% (down from 10%)
And finally, UMass Lowell released these results this morning. (There's no trend line because it's the first poll conducted by this pollster in this cycle.)
1. Donald Trump: 38%
2. Ted Cruz: 12%
3. Jeb Bush: 9%
3. John Kasich: 9%
5. Marco Rubio: 8%
6. Chris Christie: 7%
In terms of takeaways, these surveys only have a couple of things in common: Trump enjoys a big lead and Cruz is a distant second, narrowly leading his closest rivals.
From there, the results are a bit of a mess. For example, these findings show a fair amount of disagreement on whose support is increasing or decreasing, just as they disagree on the order of the candidates.
Taken together, we can say Trump looks like an in-control frontrunner -- if his supporters show up when it counts, that is -- but otherwise, it's hard to have confidence in the status of the rest of the GOP field.
All of these results come from polls taken last week, and the final tallies from tonight's Iowa caucuses may yet change the race again. But don't assume that the Republicans who fare best in Iowa will necessarily build on that success in New Hampshire: other than incumbent GOP presidents, no Republican candidate has ever won both contests in the same cycle, and some of the candidates who excelled in Iowa (Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Pat Robertson) bore little resemblance to those who did well in the Granite State (John McCain and Mitt Romney).