Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen something interesting happen in the GOP primary polling data… Nothing. Nothing has happened. Which, yes, is interesting when we consider how volatile the field has been over the last couple of months.
After the last debate in California, the field experience some tumult as Donald Trump lost about 1/3 of his support and Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio all saw marked increase in their own support. Some thought that this might be the start of some big changes in the field, instead things have settled to a new normal. Over the last couple of weeks almost every poll has given Trump about 25% of the GOP vote with Carson trailing him by 5-10 percentage points. Behind these two men come some mix of Fiorina, Rubio, Cruz and Bush, with interchangeable numbers.
Donald Trump continues to lead the field nationally in the race to become the Republican nominee for president. Twenty-seven percent of Republican primary voters support Trump, giving him a six point lead over his closest competitor, neurosurgeon Ben Carson (21 percent).
The rest of the Republican field is in single digits, with Texas Senator Ted Cruz inching up into third place with nine percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with eight percent. Businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush follow at six percent each. Former Governor Mike Huckabee has also slipped considerably since the summer, from eight percent in August to just two percent today.
Seven in ten Republican primary voters would support Trump if he became the party’s eventual nominee, though many would have reservations. Twenty-nine percent would support Trump enthusiastically, while 42 percent would support him with reservations, and another eight percent would only support him because he is the party’s nominee. One in five Republican primary voters would not support Trump if he became the nominee.
So, while Trump has come down from his highwater mark of around 33% to about 25% he has at this point seemingly stopped his slumping poll numbers. The question now becomes, how long will this new normal last?
I think this trend will continue until more GOP candidates start dropping out of the race. In the past, with other candidates we could be on the lookout for a misstep or a blunder… but Donald Trump seems impervious to these worries. So far in this campaign he’s made a number of gaffes that would have destroyed other candidates (like running afoul of Megyn Kelly and Fox News, saying John McCain wasn’t a war hero, telling Christians he’s never asked God for forgiveness, praising socialist healthcare models, arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy, defending Planned Parenthood, and saying that the government taking private property was wonderful), but Trump has escaped unscathed. He’s become the Teflon Donald of the GOP.
So for this race to shift in any meaningful way, candidates have to start dropping out of the race. Scott Walker tried to get the ball rolling when he walked away from the primary a few weeks ago, but thus far no one else has followed him out the door. While I fully expect several candidates to soon make their exits, (particularly George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal), their exits won’t really have much of an impact. No, we won’t see real movement until the bigger names in the polls bid adieu. When Rand Paul, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Mike Huckabee call it quits, then we’ll begin to see their supporters look for other options, and that’s when Dr. Carson, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina all hope to surge in the polls.
Get used to the “new normal” folks, because until someone not named Trump makes a splash… thing likely won’t change.
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