Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenate rivals gear up for debates Rubio: End of Obama's term could be 'most damaging yet' Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance MORE's star turn in last Wednesday's GOP presidential debate is already paying off, with a new poll showing his numbers rocketing upward in New Hampshire.
The Florida senator surged to third place, behind real estate mogul Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, in the Monmouth University poll of the state’s likely Republican primary voters. While Rubio trails Trump by 13 points, he is within 3 percentage points of Carson.
“Marco Rubio’s standout performance in the last debate seems to have paid dividends in a contest that was supposed to be dominated by his former mentor, Jeb Bush,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J.
The telephone survey, conducted over four days following last week's CNBC debate, shows Rubio more than tripling his support, to 13 percent, since the last Monmouth poll in September. Bush, who is seeking to reset his campaign on Monday after a disastrous debate performance, ranked a distant sixth, with 7 percent.
The poll only adds to the sense that Rubio is gaining momentum in the Republican race, with some in the party seeing him as the candidate best positioned to take down Trump.
One sign of the growing establishment support: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) on Monday endorsed Rubio for president, becoming the first sitting senator to do so.
Saying that the country "needs a new generation of leadership," Gardner pointed to the "excellent job" Rubio did in last week's debate as proof that the Florida senator is "somebody they can be excited about."
Rubio’s surge in New Hampshire is coming at a bad time for the Bush campaign, which has been forced to cut salaries amid fundraising woes and mounting questions about whether he can win the nomination.
Seeking to turn the page on Monday in Tampa, Fla., an animated Bush directly addressed his poor debate performance last week.
“If you watched the debate, you probably came away thinking this election is about sound bites, or fantasy football or which candidate can interrupt the loudest.”
“I’m here to tell you it is not,” Bush said. “This election is not about a set of personalities. It’s about a set of principles.
Standing at a podium bearing his new tagline — “Jeb Can Fix It” — the onetime primary front-runner sought to show supporters he can be a more aggressive candidate.
“We’re gonna win this damn thing,” he declared.
A strong showing in New Hampshire is critical for Bush and many of the other GOP candidates, with the preceding Iowa caucuses expected to favor a candidate such as Carson or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who are more appealing to the evangelical wing of the party.
The Monmouth poll also found that Rubio's favorability ratings had increased significantly from the last debate. He is now at 62 percent favorable and 19 percent unfavorable in New Hampshire, up from a 50 percent favorable rating and 26 percent unfavorable rating two months ago.
“Rubio’s newfound support seems to be a little softer than for other candidates at the front of the pack, but it is not particularly solid for anybody," Murray added.
Another winner from the recent debate was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has grown his likely support from 2 percent to 5 percent. Christie is now standing "at a very positive 54 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable, compared to a negative 38 percent — 46 percent result two months ago," the pollsters said in their statement.
Christie has pinned his campaign on New Hampshire and has camped out in the state while holding dozens of town hall events.
The Monmouth poll also found a drop in favorability for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to 45 percent favorable from 54 percent in September, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, at 29 percent compared with 37 percent two months ago.
“Candidate ratings can be a leading indicator for potential shifts in the vote choice. These results could be good news for Christie and bad news for Kasich. However, both have to contend with a surging Rubio,” Murray said.
Celebrity businessman Trump, who has been fading recently but still leads the GOP race overall, maintains his lead in New Hampshire, with 26 percent of likely primary voters saying they will support him. Carson, who has been surging across the country, places second, with 16 percent.
Rubio is followed by Kasich, whose allies have been spending heavily on TV advertising in New Hampshire, at 11 percent.
Candidates following the lead pack include Cruz at 9 percent, Bush at 7 percent, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Christie both at 5 percent, and Paul at 3 percent.
None of the other six Republicans included in the poll scored higher than 1 percent support.
This story was updated at 1:49 p.m.