With less than 24 hours before voters in New Hampshire head to the polls in the country’s first primary election of the 2106 presidential contest, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are in a dead heat race … for the second place.
According to a new UMass Lowell/7News released Monday, Rubio and Cruz are both at 13 percent, trailing front-runner billionaire businessman Donald Trump by 21 points among Republican-leaning voters in the Granite State.
The competition for third place is also expected to be close, as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are deadlocked with each polling at 10 percent. New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie rounds out the top five with 5 percent support in the early voting state.
The poll has a 5.13 percent margin of error.
The survey, conducted over the weekend, also found that voters in New Hampshire are fairly committed to the candidate of their choice — about 75 percent of Trump voters said they were “definitely” voting for him, while 57 percent of Cruz supporters said they were unconditional and 51 percent of Rubio's followers said the same.
Only 25 percent said that they could change their mind on Trump, while 43 percent said they would reconsider Cruz and 49 percent echoed that sentiment for Rubio.
On the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders is beating Hillary Clinton by 16 points — 56 to 40 percent, with 4 percent undecided according to the poll.
The UMass Lowell/7News spoke to 464 likely GOP-leaning primary voters between February 5 and 7.
The poll, along with Rubio’s stumbles on the debate stage Saturday night, has given hope to Trump and other candidates to better their luck in the Granite State and stay in the race.
Trump ramped up his schedule in the state where he's poised to clinch his first victory Tuesday following a humbling second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. The pressure on, he waxed confident about his ability to win as his GOP opponents mainly focused their attacks on each other.
Unpredictable and known for last-minute decisions, New Hampshire voters had been expected to help winnow the crowded Republican primary, clarifying which of the candidates would emerge as the strongest alternative to front-runners Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But a shaky debate performance by Rubio, who gained fresh interest after placing third in Iowa, offered new hopes to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, suggesting a longer battle slog for the GOP that could extend after New Hampshire into South Carolina, Nevada and beyond.
Rubio, who was roundly mocked for reciting rote talking points over and over in Saturday's debate, was working to flip the script, arguing that if he sounded repetitive, it was only because he was consistent.
"Voters across the country and especially here in New Hampshire got to hear me say repeatedly the truth: that Barack Obama is trying to redefine the role of government in our country and America's role in the world," Rubio said Monday on "CBS This Morning."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.