There are three weeks until the first primary in Iowa, and a new NBC-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll released Sunday shows the race among Republican and Democrat nominees is neck and neck in early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Republican Ted Cruz is beating Donald Trump in Iowa by 4 percent, at 28 percent support versus 24 percent. On the Democratic side in Iowa, Hilllary Clinton is just ahead of Bernie Sanders by three percent, at 48 percent to 45 percent.
In New Hampshire, Sanders is ahead of Clinton by four percent, at 50 percent versus 46 percent support. On the Republican side in New Hampshire the race is not as close, with Trump leading the pack by 16 percent, with his closest competition in the state, Marco Rubio, holding only 14 percent support. The New Hampshire poll may not be close for Trump, but other Republican candidates are in much more competition, with each candidate holding less than 15 percent support.
NBC's Meet the Press says the poll results for the two races are within a threshold known as the 'margin of error.' Margin of error is an amount, or in this case a percentage, that is allowed for miscalculation or change of circumstances, which means that any of the primary races could go to one of the top contenders, especially in Iowa between Cruz and Trump and Clinton and Sanders.
The poll also put candidates up against each other in plausible general races. Iowa pollers placed both Clinton and Sanders in the winning position if either were to go against Trump. Clinton falters against Cruz and Rubio in the state, but Sanders has a much better chance, leading against Cruz and tying with Rubio.
New Hampshire pollers favored Sanders, putting him ahead of all major GOP candidates by at least 9 percent, but showed Clinton struggling against possible future opponents.
Meet the Press says Sanders' performance in the matchups is due to his popularity with independents. Sanders holds the majority of independents' support in Iowa and New Hampshire compared to Clinton, who loses independent votes to GOP candidates, and especially Ted Cruz, in the states.