Donald Trump Continues To Lead As The GOP Race Appears To Consolidate

The latest national poll of the Republican race shows Trump continuing to lead, Ben Carson fading, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio rising while the rest of the field is stagnant or sinking.

Fourth Republican Debate Nov 10 2015

The latest national poll of the Republican race for President shows that Donald Trump continues to maintain his lead, and that Ben Carson is fading while Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz appear to be moving closer to their own battle for second place:

Ben Carson took a tumble in the latest national poll, falling six points from last month in the Quinnipiac University survey, after weathering heavy criticism for his lack of foreign policy expertise and scrutiny about his personal tale of redemption.

After pulling into a virtual tie with Donald Trump in the prior poll, the retired neurosurgeon dropped back to third place with 16 percent support among Republican voters, while Trump moved up three percentage points to dominate the field at 27 percent.

Also enjoying a bump — Sen. Marco Rubio, who moved up 3 percentage points and into second place with 17 percent support, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who also gained 3 percentage points and tied with Carson at 16 percent. The 3 percent hikes for Trump, Rubio and Cruz are all within the poll’s margin of error.

Behind Trump and the triumvirate vying for position behind the Manhattan businessman, no other candidate finished in the double digits.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush earned 5 percent, followed by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina at 3 percent, with no one else receiving more than 2 percent support and 8 percent undecided.

Carson’s dip follows a series of unforced errors, including a flap over his assertion that China is involved in the Syrian conflict and his struggle to answer whom he would call first to form a coalition against the Islamic State. He also has come under increased scrutiny for the stories he has often retold about his violent childhood and his religious redemption that allowed him to become a highly successful pediatric neurosurgeon.

After surging in the early fall, nipping at the heels of Trump and even surpassing him in some polls, Carson appears to be settling back down in some surveys.

“Poll numbers will go up and down. It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Carson told NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday in addressing his slide among Iowa Republicans specifically.

This most recent poll delivered some good news for Rubio and Cruz, who have both recently upped their profiles on the campaign trail and engaged in some nasty backs-and-forth about their respective political records, especially regarding immigration.

Beyond the top four of Trump, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz, support for the rest of the Republican field appears to be collapsing. As stated above, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is at 5%, followed by Carly Fiorina at 3% and then a triumvirate of candidates, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and John Kasich,, who register at 2%, Mike Huckabee at 1%, and all the other candidates at or near 0%. This apparent consolidation is also apparent in the poll averages. At RealClearPolitics, Trump is at the top at 28.3%, followed by Carson who registers an 18.3% average largely due to the fact that the average is still considering polling from earlier in November when he was still still performing well. Senators Rubio and Cruz are moving up in the average, with Rubio now at 13.8% and Cruz not far behind at 13.0%. After that, the numbers fall off in much the same way that the poll numbers do in this latest poll. Jeb Bush sits at an average of 5.3%, followed by Carly Fiorina at 3.5%, and then Huckabee, Christie, Kasich, and Paul all averaging below 3% and the remaining candidates all averaging below 1%. While the numbers are slightly different, the Pollster average shows roughly the same trends, with Trump, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz in the top tier, Jeb Bush in the middle, Fiorina, Huckabee, Paul, Kasich, and Christie seemingly fading, and the other candidates basically dead. Of more immediate concern to the candidates, this latest poll, which is among those that will be considered in determining who gets invited to the next debate, suggests a much small main debate stage than we’ve seen before. To get on the main stage this time, a candidate must have an average in the designated polls that CNN will consider of either 3.5% nationally or 4.0% in either Iowa or New Hampshire. If my estimate of that criteria is correct, the main stage of the next debate will consist of Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Bush, and Christie. The remaining candidates, including candidates like Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Mike Huckabee, would be relegated to the undercard debate while some candidates, like Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, may not even get invited to that debate at all.

The biggest takeaway from this poll, and from the poll averages, seems to be the idea that we are seeing some level of consolidation as we head into the final two months before voting actually begins. Donald Trump remains, as has been for the past five months, at the top of the field with little sign that he is going to be deposed from that position any time soon. Ben Carson is still in second place, but he is quickly fading as the questions raised about  his character, his trustworthiness and, perhaps most importantly, his preparedness to be President on important issues like foreign policy. Meanwhile both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are beginning a rise in the polls that is well-timed for both of them as we head toward Iowa and New Hampshire. The reality of that rise can be seen in the fact that we are seeing both Senators go after each other more directly on the campaign trail, while they simultaneously compete to pick away at what’s left of Jeb Bush’s support, and Marco Rubio racks up an impressive array of endorsements from Republican Senators and other elected officials. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, is arguably alone in the middle of the field but with little sign that he’ll be turning his fortunes around any time soon. After Bush, there’s Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul all bunched just above or just below a 3% average in the national polling. Below them, are the candidates who, in ordinary years, would probably be out of the race by now but seem to be staying in largely because they have nothing better to do and because the continuation of the largely unnecessary undercard debates means that they still have a chance to get some free television coverage that might lead to future media deals or gigs on the speaking circuit. Most importantly, these trends appear to be occurring as well in the early primary states, most importantly and Iowa and New Hampshire.

This chart from RealClearPolitics provides a good illustration of what seems to be happening:

RCP Chart 122

If these trends continue, then it’s likely that the next two months or so of the campaign will consist of a combination of Rubio and Cruz fighting each other to see which one continues to rise to be the next primary challenger to Donald Trump. Indeed, it seems fairly clear that the battle between Cruz and Rubio will have to be resolved before either one of them can seriously take Trump on, and that may not happen until we’ve gotten a few primaries under our belt in mid-February. Additionally, since it’s still not outside the realm of possibility that another candidate, such as Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or Chris Christie, could see their fortunes turn around before the end of January, it may end up being the case that Cruz and Rubio end up damaging each other so much that neither one of them is able to take on Trump. Additionally, it seems likely that both Senators are likely to become the target of Trump attacks the closer they get to him. Ben Carson, meanwhile, appears to be on a clear downward trajectory that is unlikely to reverse itself at this point. The biggest question will be where the Carson support goes. At least in the short term, it appears to be dividing itself between Rubio and Cruz, but it’s possible that some of the people who supported Carson in past polling could give some of the candidates further down the list another look. For the time being, though, we appear to be headed toward a race dominated by Trump, a fading Ben Carson, a Rubio-Cruz battle for who gets to rise next, and then a bunch of candidates consisting of everyone from Jeb Bush to Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, who appear to have stalled and seem unlikely to rise. As the caveats always say, there’s still time for something that could change the race between now and the time voting starts, but that time is growing short and, with the holidays approaching, the race will largely be frozen in place from mid-December until after the New Year. That won’t give the other candidates much time to turn things around.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:
  2. SenyorDave says:

    I heard someone say on the Larry Wilmore Show that Trump is the human equivalent of internet comments.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    From the ‘pdf’ of the poll itself comes good news for Dems/lefties:

    “American voters shift to Clinton as the Democrat gains ground against Republicans:

    –47 – 41 percent over Trump, compared to 46 – 43 percent November

    –Clinton at 45 percent to Rubio’s 44 percent compared to a 46 – 41 percent Rubio lead last month

    –Clinton tops Cruz 47 – 42 percent compared to Cruz 46 to Clinton 43 percent last month

    –Clinton at 46 to Carson’s 43 percent compared to Carson’s 50 – 40 percent lead last month

    Sanders does just as well, or even better, against top Republicans….”

  4. michael reynolds says:

    I just had a thought. I think Trump will choose his vice presidential running mate in a very special three-part The Apprentice: Veep. Lindsay Graham will compete against Omarosa and a random Kardashian.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @JohnMcC: As odd as it may seem there is evidence that Sanders is actually getting some support from populist Republicans.

  6. Argon says:

    One can count on the Bushes, via their proxies, going dirty on Rubio and Cruz. Not that it would be much of a stretch against either candidate. ..

  7. Tillman says:

    Money’s still on Rubio as it has been since April. Ask yourself, who is most likely to be endorsed by candidates dropping out? Minuscule percentages shifted, perhaps, but the field has always been too large, and endorsements will shuffle superPACs around in lasting ways.

    Jeb could stick around to utilize his superPAC funds (recall reading an interview with the manager of one of those who exclaimed Jeb’s victory based on that money) but it won’t be for long unless he’s attempting to stretch the primary season out, and his gamble is more dire than McCain’s was in 2008. His persistent low showing in the polls will not keep donors around long enough to finance a viable ground game in the states needed to pull off that stretch, in my opinion.

    Christie has nowhere to go: his famous attitude is outdone by Trump, his belligerence already has a voice in Rubio, and he doesn’t have the bones to move into evangelical territory. (Neither does Rubio, but he has other factors that cover this up.) He might be the first choice of Acela Republicans who would rather see a governor than a senator and a moderate over a committed movement diehard, but that’s a thin (and non-influential, votingwise) slice of the electorate.

    I’m taking Carson’s collapse as a given, but there’s no reason for him to go beneath 10%. That’s significant enough to brunt the ambitions of others. Weren’t most of his voters second-choicing Trump anyway? Memory’s off.

    Cruz has the same vulnerabilities Trump does, only with the [compromised] veneer of having been elected. As long as Trump is in the running, Cruz is going to be seen as second-rate. Further, Cruz has taken Rand Paul’s stance on government surveillance which might not play well in a newly-revitalized national security debate, and doubles down on the supply-side economics side of the Bush administration. (Rubio’s going for “compassionate conservatism-lite” which I think will play better, but we’ll see.) The real question is whether Rubio goes full psychopath or not. He campaigns well, but he continues to come off as well-rehearsed rather than eloquent. It’s a thin distinction, and I might only notice it due to my ideological conflicts with him. It could nonetheless prove pivotal as the race calcifies.

  8. edmondo says:


    Why would a Hillary lead be good news for “lefties”? She’s about as far left as Jeb!.

  9. Mike says:

    Trump – a direct result of catering to the Teahadists, preaching “values” like discriminating against homosexuals, trying to remove separation of church and state protections, and crying they are fiscal conservatives with 8 years of Bush as the immediate history of being the opposite. Trump proves that the GOP must transform, and do so quickly, or they will lose a potential generation of voters.

    Their brand of foreign policy is based on spending exorbitant amounts on wars of choice. When you preach that bombing and war is the best approach to every “problem” then you get Trump as your frontrunner.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Well…except that JEB! wants to blow up the deficit by $3.4T over the next ten years…which is what Republicans always do.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    So…the socialist who has no chance of becoming President beats all Republicans?

    OT – Jenos will be happy…Sandy Berger died.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    Trump wants to kill the family of Robert Dear and other radical christian terrorists:

    “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families…they care about their lives. Don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

  13. Mike says:

    @C. Clavin: Tell me Trump is a plant to make the other contenders appear more mainstream? He has to be – no intelligent human being could make such statements. So much for the Rules of Engagement. I guess our service members families would be legitimate targets in a Trump Administration.

    HRC must wake up every morning and give thanks to God that Trump is still running.

  14. Mikey says:
  15. C. Clavin says:

    well…he was talking about middle eastern terrorists…but a terrorist is a terrorist, right?
    I mean…we shouldn’t treat white terrorists any different, should we?

  16. Facebones says:

    @Ron Beasley: I suspect any Republican support for Bernie is due to their not wanting to face Hillary in the general.

  17. CSK says:


    That was terrific. Thanks for the link.


    That would be my guess as well.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    No, actually. See, here in the US (and much of the world) we have laws and a government to enforce those laws. So we use… wait for it… law.

    In failed states like Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and so on, there is effectively no law and no real government. So we don’t use law. We use force.

    Where there is law, you use law. Where there is no law, you use force. In fact, that’s why we have laws and government and such, and why we encourage other countries to have laws and governments, because law is preferable to force.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Head-to-heads are meaningless at this point. What you’re seeing is that both parties are within the MoE of their core support. Dems a little north of 45%, Reps a little south of 45%.

  20. Moosebreath says:

    @C. Clavin:

    “Well…except that JEB! wants to blow up the deficit by $3.4T over the next ten years…which is what Republicans always do.”

    And Jeb! wants to wage class warfare on behalf of the upper classes, and is willing to blow up the economy to do so.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I guess you haven’t been listening to Republican rhetoric my friend.
    Watch lists, tracking devices, execution for simply thinking abut ISIS.
    Hell…this guy wants to execute illegal aliens who re-enter the country.
    Laws…laws are for pu$$ies.

  22. JohnMcC says:

    @Ron Beasley: I have also noticed this trend for Repubs to have a pro-Bernie segment. Reflected on that and had two thoughts: First was that his not being listed as a “DEMOCRAT” might be a positive for him in that way; some R’s would not pull the D-lever but a so-called-socialist looks to them like a protest/outsider candidate. And also that the Republican coalition that was built by Nixon and carried to victory by Reagan has eroded so badly that significant portions of them have no idea what to believe anymore.

  23. Tylerh says:

    That RCP graph is real clear:

    Trump, Carson, and Fiorina have been trading the same voters for the past three months.

    As almost any date you choose, these three candidates sum to 51 +/- 2 %. It’s uncanny.

    And what do these three have in common? No prior elected office. Bona Fide outsiders.

    Before October, adding in Walker gets the sum back to about 50%. And Walker tried to run as an outsider.

    So, thus far, 1/2 of the Republican primary electorate has been looking for a “outsider” standard bearer, with Reality TV start Trump doing the best, by far.

    The other dozen candidates have been engaged in a more “traditional” primary amongst the 1/2 of the electorate that cares about “qualifications.” However, as long as that group is split, Trump,as the last “outsider” standing, leads.

    Rubio and Cruz may be tempted to tear into each other, but all they may be doing is paving the way for Trump.

    Remember how Jesse Ventura became Governor? This has a familiar ring.

    Trump holds onto his “outsider” cred while the two remaining “legitimate” candidates tear each other down.

    The big question is: how many of these “outsider” voters will spend 4 hours at an Iowa caucus?

  24. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: Started to argue that since most terrorist attacks now-a-days are committed by citizens, that Mr Trump’s comment didn’t apply to areas of the earth in which there is no government. Looking into it (while trying to avoid actually having to watch lengthy swathes of ‘Fox & Friends’!) I see that the subject was the ‘war on ISIS’ and the collateral damage to noncombatants from extensive bombing. So I suppose that in this case you are correct.

    Looking at the possibility that Mr Trump or some similar reptile would actually advocate the Israeli policy of destroying the family home of a domestic terrorist, however, I have to say it would be compatible with the rest of his… would you call it a ‘platform’?

    Does your recent adoption of Bomber Harris’ definition of war include destroying American families’ homes if one of their children should become equally radicalized as Mr Dear seems to have been?

  25. Mike says:

    So the principles of limiting collateral damage, military necessity, proportionality – all these crazy ideas would be gone under a Trump Presidency?

    The more I think about a Trump presidency and here the latest ideas he has, the more I want to watch Idiocracy. There is a big similarity between Trump and President Camacho – I wonder if his handlers are big fans of the movie.

  26. michael reynolds says:


    Why would I favor destroying the homes of American citizens? As I said: we have laws. Where there is no law, we use very different means.

    And I have not “recently” come to believe that war should be war, I’ve always believed it and have always said so. The difference is one of degree. You have no doubt noticed that we are currently dropping bombs on bad people in various countries – Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan (and probably others.) And Mr. Obama ran in 2008 on doing just that.

    My position is that this is all well and good so long as we are dealing with ISIS in situ. If we are dealing with ISIS metastasizing into an international terrorist force, we may need to raise the cost to them. Stopping terror (ISIS and its inevitable descendants) in the west is more vital to us than stopping ISIS in situ.

    When an enemy changes tactics and finds a way to inflict damage on us, I like to return the favor with sufficient force as to negate whatever advantage that enemy hopes to gain. We began the Civil War as a war of maneuver. By the end it was a war of attrition and a war against civilian property. That’s how war tends to go. You do what works and stop doing what doesn’t work, otherwise you lose. You know another way to win a war?

    I mean, do you think we’re not already killing ISIS families? You don’t think mom and the kids are ever in the cars and buildings we blow up?

  27. Rafer Janders says:


    Looking at the possibility that Mr Trump or some similar reptile would actually advocate the Israeli policy of destroying the family home of a domestic terrorist, however, I have to say it would be compatible with the rest of his… would you call it a ‘platform’?

    It would at least give the Trump organization a chance to put up a much bigger, classier home on the same site.

  28. Lenoxus says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m waiting for the part where you explain that this is all about preventing Republican victory (and the attendant horrors of fascism at home and total war abroad) by assuaging voter fears. I mean, it almost sounds like you think total war is a swell idea in its own right, but that would be nuts.

  29. michael reynolds says:


    No one thinks any such thing, nor does it in any way flow from what I’ve written. I’m just a not a sanctimonious hypocrite. I don’t support wars while pretending that it’s all going to be happiness and joy. I insist on acknowledging that however good our precision weapons, we will make widows and orphans. We will kill people’s children. That’s the reality. Right now tonight we are going to destroy the lives and hopes of a certain number of innocent people in Syria.

    But at the moment those deaths are failing to accomplish our goals. The enemy has priced them in. The pinpricks are disruptive,they certainly make life hell for ISIS honchos, but it’s not enough either to stop them, or even more useful, motivate the locals to deal with things on their own.

    In terms of dealing with ISIS in situ I’m fine with Mr. Obama’s minimalist policy. But the issue of terrorism is larger than just ISIS. It’s an exploitation of weakness in our world view. It exploits our innate notions of fairness and proportionality. It exploits our humanity.

    I don’t understand the mentality that accepts tacit defeat, that wishes to accept terror as the new normal, with all the limitations on our freedom that will entail, because they refuse when war comes to do as earlier generations have done, and actually win. We have the power and this is why we have it.

    Raise the price on terror from acceptable to intolerable and you motivate the locals from Pakistan to Iraq, to get their own sh-t together and not use us as pawns in their internal games by playing footsie with terrorists. UAD. Unilateral Assured Destruction. And unlike the French, we don’t have to upset people who freak out over nukes, we can use conventional bombers.

    It’s nothing that our Democratic patron saints, FDR and HST wouldn’t have approved of. It’s nothing they didn’t do. And unlike me, with my softhearted evacuation time, they didn’t give a warning.

  30. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    You have fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of terrorism. The entire point of the exercise is to inspire terror and an irrational response. By reacting out of fear and anger the targets of terrorism further damage themselves and strengthen the terrorist. We cannot bomb our way to victory in a war against terrorism. No amount of wanton destruction will kill this tactic. What the near indiscriminate wanton destruction you propose in response will do is turn world opinion against us while making us more enemies and more terrorists than we kill. One would think that Iraq and Afghanistan would be object lessons for you in how massively disproportionate response does nothing to discourage terrorism or terrorists.
    The analogies here aren’t WWI or WWII. The analogies are Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We can’t hurt the enemy enough to discourage them and retain our humanity. We need different tactics.