Donald Trump Tied For Lead In Meaningless Poll
The political blogosphere is abuzz today with news that Donald Trump is now tied with Mike Huckabee for the lead in a national poll of Republicans:
Donald Trump is now tied with Mike Huckabee for first place when Republicans are asked who they support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, according to a new national poll.
But while a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that the real estate mogul and reality TV star has nearly doubled his support since mid-March, it doesn’t mean he has smooth sailing ahead.
“More than four in ten Republicans say they would not like to see Trump toss his hat in the ring,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Nineteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents questioned in the poll say that as of now, they’d be most likely to support Trump for next year’s GOP presidential nomination. Trump says he’ll decide by June whether he runs for the White House. An equal amount say they’d back Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate says he’ll decide by later this year if he’ll make another bid for the White House.
Twelve percent say they’d support former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, who was the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, with 11 percent backing former Massachusetts Gov. and 2008 White House hopeful Mitt Romney and the same amount supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Seven percent say they are backing Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, another 2008 presidential candidate, with five percent supporting Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who enjoys strong backing from many in the Tea Party movement. Everyone else registers in the low single digits.
Trump jumped from 10 percent in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last month, with Romney dropping from 18 percent to 11 percent.
While you ponder those numbers, I’d also like you to ponder a poll that was released exactly four years ago today:
WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain, once considered the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has fallen to third place in a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, and is running behind Fred Thompson, an actor and former senator who has not even entered the race.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani leads the crowded field of announced and potential contenders with support from 29% of probable Republican primary voters surveyed, followed by Thompson with 15% and McCain with 12%. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and a fundraising powerhouse, had 8%.
Giuliani had been consistently leading most polls of the Republican race since as far back as December 2006, of course, and this April 2007 poll was just the beginning of McCain’s campaign crisis that lasted through most of the summer and fall of 2007. Two months later, two Rasmussen polls (here and here) showed Fred Thompson, who had just entered the race, pulling ahead of Giuliani. In July 2007, an Associated Press poll showed that a quarter of Republicans were dissatisfied with the entire field.
We know how the 2008 race ended, of course. McCain came back from the dead, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney started to surge in late December 2007, Fred Thompson faltered when it became clear that he was, at best, a laconic campaigner, and Rudy Giuliani achieved infamy when he spent $50,000,000 and won a single delegate before dropping out in January 2008, only one month into the primaries. All that early polling proved to be entirely meaningless when the rubber hit the road. Of course, it wasn’t just the Republican race in 2008 that proved the unreliability of early polling; up until December 2007, Hillary Clinton seemed like a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination.
We are looking at a similar phenomenon this time around. For one thing, the race for the nomination has barely started. Only three candidates (Pawlenty, Cain, and Romney) have even formed exploratory committees at this point and several major prospective candidates (Gingrich, Barbour, Daniels) are still hedging their bets. This is a change from recent Presidential cycles, so there’s something of a vacuum in the race right now. Into that vacuum rushes the gadflies like Michele Bachmann and, of course, Donald Trump.
Trump has been playing the media like a fiddle for 20 years now, so its no surprise that when he expresses the slightest interest in running for the Presidency, the media eats it up. He makes for good, headline grabbing, television and, like Paris Hilton, he’s one of those people who’s famous for being famous. So, that explains why the media has been giving him so much free press lately.
As for the polls, Mark Blumenthal points out that Trump’s supposed surge in the polls isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:
So is Trump really a frontrunner? The answer appears to be no, if only because Republican preferences at this point are so bunched up and tenuous. The 2012 GOP presidential nomination race lacks a dominant leader and polls show no consistent rank in voter preferences among the three to five best known candidates.
What Trump’s numbers really mean, then, isn’t so much that Republican voters are in love with the idea of Donald Trump as their nominee, as that there is no clear frontrunner that people are rallying around right now. That’s likely to be the case until the debates and the voting actually start.