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Poll for anti-Donald Trump group finds narrowing Republican presidential race in Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

A new poll by an anti-Donald Trump group has found a narrowing Republican presidential race in Florida, suggesting the barrage of TV ads by the group and its allies might be taking effect.

Trump leads Marco Rubio 35-30 percent ahead of the March 15 primary, according to the poll conducted for Our Principles PAC by The Tarrance Group, a Republican firm, and obtained by the Miami Herald. Ted Cruz drew 16 percent support, John Kasich 9 percent and Ben Carson 5 percent. (Carson formally dropped out Friday.) Six percent of respondents were undecided.

Earlier polls by other firms have suggested a wider -- in some cases, much wider -- margin between Trump and Rubio. The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Trump ahead by 20 percentage points, Quinnipiac University by 16 points and Associated Industries of Florida by 7 points. All those polls were conducted last week, before Our Priorities and two other groups -- American Future Fund and Club for Growth -- unleashed their anti-Trump advertising.

The New York Times reported Friday that Trump himself plans to advertise in Florida. Both Trump and Rubio are rallying in the state Saturday.

The Herald obtained a two-page memo summarizing the latest poll results, without explicit details of which questions were asked and how, or of the poll’s demographics. That information would provide a better picture of the poll’s overall fairness. Tarrance is a well-known polling firm, and it surveyed 800 likely voters using live telephone calls from Feb. 29-March 2. The poll’s error margin was 3.5 percentage points.

Like the AIF poll from last week -- the one that found the tightest Florida race -- Tarrance identified likely voters based on their voting history listed in the state's voter file. Quinnipiac and PPP let respondents self-identify if they're planning to vote. That may capture voters who are not registered Republicans and may not vote in Florida's closed primaries, which shut out independents and don't allow cross-over votes from Democrats. Trump has done better in states with open primaries because he draws support from independents and Democrats.

The new poll offered a glimmer of hope for Rubio in that he continues to have the most favorable rating among all the candidates. That gives him the most room to grow among undecided voters; according to the poll, 24 percent of respondents are still picking a candidate. Sixteen percent are leaning toward one, and 57 percent have already decided. 

Rubio has guaranteed a Florida win. Losing his home state would effectively force him out of the race. His Florida organization, though, has appeared slow to ramp up, and Florida voters have been casting ballots by mail or in person now for weeks.

Asked if they would “never” vote for Trump, 32 percent of respondents agreed. Of those, 30 percent felt “strongly” about their position.

The anti-Trump groups have pushed a “#NeverTrump” campaign on social media. But when Trump’s rivals were given the chance to disavow Trump’s likely nomination in Thursday night’s debate, all three said they’d vote for the Republican winner anyway.

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