With the end of 2015 only days away, and Iowa caucuses not far behind, support for Marco Rubio seems to be softening in some national polls.
The Florida senator’s dip, however slight, comes at what may be the worst possible moment for Rubio, who is seen by both Republican and Democratic establishment types as the best hope for the GOP winning back the White House in November.
At present, many observers say Rubio needs to be moving up, not down – and certainly not placing third as he has been in early-primary states and nationally.
In New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation primaries Feb. 9, Rubio is losing ground to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been making headway with voters in the state in recent months.
A new CNN poll this week has Rubio dropping to 10 percent, a full two percentage points since November, tying him for third with Ben Carson. In contrast, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is at 39 percent, a three-point jump. Coming in second place is Ted Cruz at 18 percent, up two points since last month.
Another poll, this one from Quinnipiac, has Rubio slipping five points nationally, down to 12 percent. Trump added a point; Cruz added eight. Fox News polling shows a similar trend, with Rubio losing three points to 11 percent over the past month, Trump rising 11 points and Cruz jumping four points.
According to Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg Politics, polling aggregation site RealClearPolitics also found a strong, consistent decline in national averages for Rubio after around Dec. 8, despite four strong GOP debate performances and the struggling campaign of fellow Floridian Jeb Bush.
Not helping matters for Rubio is the impression that he rarely visits New Hampshire, most evident during a recent three-day campaign visit of the Granite State. After Christmas, Rubio is scheduled to go back to Iowa for a bus tour Dec. 28-30.
Rubio has spent most of the summer insisting polls are not in important factor, saying he is more interested in establishing a long-term strategy – despite campaign representatives refusing to say exactly what that strategy means.
What matters most are the polls that are open on Election Day.
“The day before makes me nervous. I’d like it just the day of,” Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan told Bloomberg last month. “I want to be in second place up until the day we win in Iowa, and then still remain in second place in New Hampshire until that day. Look, there’s nothing good that comes out of being in first place other than winning.”