Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both scored big with Republicans who watched the debate
In a decisive victory for the freshman senator from Florida, a third (33%) of registered voters who identify as Republican or lean Republican say Marco Rubio bested his Republican primary opponents at the third GOP debate, according a new YouGov/HuffPost poll.
Texas conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz came in second with 21% of Republican viewers saying he won, followed by 17% for Donald Trump and 12% for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
The question was asked only to the 67% of Republicans and Republican-leaners surveyed who watched at least clips or highlights of the debate, which aired CNBC and was billed as a debate about economic issues.
One of the biggest moments of the night came when Rubio sharply dismissed an attack by fellow Floridian Jeb Bush on his Senate vote attendance record, and the new poll suggests Rubio’s debate victory may be at Bush’s expense. While 49% of Republicans said they came away from the debate with a more positive impression of Rubio, 47% came away with a more negative view of Bush.
The only other candidate to have significantly worsened their standing with Republicans watching is John Kasich, who also attacked another Republican onstage (in Kasich’s case, Trump was the target).
Admitting a disappointing showing, Bush told reporters afterwards he was relieved he had fared better than at least one other participant – CNBC's debate moderators, John Harwood, Becky Quick and Carl Quintanilla. CNBC’s performance was criticized by pundits from across the political aisle and some of the biggest applause lines of the night came when the candidates took turns bashing the “liberal media” and unfair questions from the moderators.
Indeed the hosts received the worst ratings of the night, with 69% of Republicans disapproving of their handling of the debate and 13% approving (non-Republicans are divided, with half undecided). For comparison, 51% of Republicans approved of how Fox News moderated in the first debate on August 6th and 36% approved of how CNN moderated of the second debate on September 16th.
The 'undercard' debate
A smaller share of Republicans (44%) watched at least clips of the so-called “undercard” debate for Republican candidates who have performed less well in the polls. The debate, which took place before the main event, featured Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Linsey Graham and George Pataki.
In this debate, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was the standout performer with 24% giving him the win, against 10% for runner-up Rick Santorum.
Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.