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Ted Cruz surges into second in national Republican primary polling

Way, way back in this presidential election cycle, eons ago, back in the beginning of November, we noted something: There was an odd way in which 2016 polling looked like 2012 polling. That is, a candidate with steady support was seeing an insurgent rise and then fall against him. In 2012, the steady candidate was Mitt Romney. In 2016, it's maybe Donald Trump. It's a weak, intentionally provocative note (read: a troll), but ... it's perhaps not that far from the mark.

The terror attacks in Paris have, as predicted, helped kneecap national support for Ben Carson. Carson's evaporating, likely never to return, his support appearing to go largely to Trump and Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio's been improving, too, perhaps thanks to some Carson withering and perhaps due to the slow-motion Hindenberg that is Jeb!.

According to Real Clear Politics's running average, we have a new second-place candidate who is not named Trump or Carson for the first time since late August. The ranking is now Trump, Cruz, Rubio and, in fourth, Carson.

That's thanks to the new Suffolk/USA Today survey which has Cruz in second over Rubio. After Carson, no one gets more than five percent support, including Jeb!.

That's a little misleading, as the chart makes clear. What is really happening is that there are now three tiers in the Republican field. There's Trump, soaring high overhead in his Trump-branded plane. There are the 200 or whatever candidates who are rolling around in the single digits. And in the airspace between, there are three: Carson (making preparations for his final descent), Rubio and Cruz (about to allow passengers to use laptops and other devices, to strain the metaphor). Or, to strain it further: Turbulent!

On Tuesday, our Chris Cillizza noted that the Republican Party is afraid of Donald Trump. He also pointed out that it's not too enthusiastic about Cruz, either. In the eyes of the establishment, the sole bright spot is Marco Rubio, in a close third.

Unless or until he and Cruz make like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry in 2012, and fade back away. Just saying. It could happen.

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