Trump And Carson Continue To Lead GOP Field, Rubio Rises

While Donald Trump and Ben Carson have slipped somewhat in the polls, they both continue to lead the GOP field while Marco Rubio shows signs of breaking out of the middle of the pack.

Republican Debate September 16D

A new poll from CBS News shows that Donald Trump and Ben Carson continue to lead the race for the Republican nomination, but there are some signs that other candidates may be starting to make a move as voters start to pay more attention to the race:

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.

When Republican voters are asked who would be their second choice for the nomination, Ben Carson (20 percent) and Marco Rubio (18 percent) are the most mentioned candidates.

Among Trump supporters, Carson is the top second choice, far ahead of any other candidate.

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.

Trump continues to be viewed as the most electable candidate in a general election. Thirty-five percent say Trump has the best chance of winning in November 2016, followed by Ben Carson (18 percent).

Carson, Trump, Rubio, and Fiorina are all viewed more favorably than unfavorably among Republican primary voters. At 62 percent, favorable views of Ben Carson are the highest of this group, only seven percent are unfavorable. Fifty-three percent have a favorable view of Donald Trump, and 50 percent have a positive assessment of Marco Rubio. While Trump’s unfavorable rating is more than twice that of either Rubio or Fiorina, many don’t have an opinion of the latter two candidates. Former Governor Jeb Bush is now viewed more unfavorably (38 percent) than favorably (32 percent) by Republican primary voters.

While the favorable ratings of both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio have risen slightly since August among Republican primary voters, Bush’s favorable rating has dropped 11 points.

These Republican candidates are viewed less positively among all registered voters nationwide.

Carson has the highest favorable rating among this broader group of voters, and Fiorina is viewed more favorably than not. Voters divide in their views of Rubio. Many voters overall don’t have an opinion of these three contenders.

Fifty-three percent of registered voters overall have an unfavorable opinion of Trump – the highest of the Republicans asked about. Bush is also viewed negatively.

Just about a month has passed since the last Republican debate, and we can see some changes in the state of the race, but at the top things remain relatively unchanged. Donald Trump did see his numbers fall from the peak that they reached right before that last debate, when we saw him peak at roughly 31% in both the RealClearPolitics and Pollster averages, but they began to fall almost immediately thereafter even though Trump remained in the lead. At the time, many political pundits forecast that this would be the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s dominance of the race. As I cautioned at the time, though, there had already been other times since June when we were supposedly at the beginning of the end for Trump only to be proven wrong. For the moment at least, it would appear that this caution was warranted since Trump’s drop in the polls seems to have come to a halt for the time being and he finds himself in roughly the same position in the polls that he was in at the end of August prior to his surge before the second debate. Similarly, Ben Carson seems to be in about the same position he was in prior to the debate, though he may have benefited somewhat from the what many observers agreed was a less than spectacular performance by Donald Trump. Like Trump, though, Carson seems to have leveled off where he is at the moment.

If there’s one candidate who clearly seems to have benefited from the fallout from the second debate, it would appear to be Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has seen his standing in the post-debate polls rise significantly to the point where he is now in third place in the poll averages. Admittedly, Rubio’s position at 9.9% in the RealClearPolitics average and 10.5% in the broader Pollster average is far below where Trump and Carson stand at the moment, but it is a significant rise for a candidate that had been languishing for much of the summer and one that arguably positions him to rise further in the coming months for the reasons I argued last week.

On the other end of the spectrum, there does appear to be at least some evidence that Carly Fiorina’s rise in the polls may have reached its peak. As you will recall, Fiorina’s performance in the undercard portion of the first Republican debate was good enough to catapult in her in the polls and earn her a position, thanks to a rule change, on the main stage of the second debate. Since then, though, her numbers have slowly been drifting downward at the national level and it doesn’t seem as though she was able to build on the momentum she had coming out of the first debate. With a serious candidate like Rubio now rising in the polls, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz not far behind, it could be that Fiorina’s moment in the sun was quite fleeting indeed.

As for the rest of the field, there really isn’t very much to say, the candidates at the bottom of the pack — Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santroum, and Jim Gilmore — remain where they’ve always been and may or may not end up getting invited to the October 28th undercard debate. Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz seem to be firmly established in the second tier behind the top three, meanwhile. That leaves the candidates who are arguably on the bubble for the main stage for the next debate. In order to get on that stage, a candidate will have to have an average of at least 2.5% in the polls that CNBC will be consulting, of which CBS is one, for the period concluding on Saturday. Based on that criteria, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, and Chris Christie all seem to be guaranteed a slot, although the fact that their numbers have slipped in recent polling means that they could be in danger depending on what any additional polling we see over the next week might say. The most vulnerable candidate, though, is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who currently is sitting right on the 2.5% average he would need to qualify. If he slips in any polls that come out between now and Saturday, his status on debate night will be impacted significantly and that would not be good news for a campaign that is already flailing.

FILED UNDER: 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. Steve Evets says:

    Might this become a race where eventually the primary voters in both parties make a selection based upon the likely candidate of the other party? Will the extreme choice of one party embolden the other to go extreme as well? Will a more mainstream choice coax them to go the same way? The bulk of the American electorate is in the middle and not at the extremes of either party, but might they really have a real choice in the general?

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Marco Rubio will be formidable.

    Marco, like Hillary, holds very few strongly held beliefs. Just as Hillary recently did a 180 from her previous support of TPP, Rubio’s already distanced himself from his own failed immigration reform bill. He knows what he has to say in order to try to get ultra-conservatives onboard. He’s already stated that he would make no exception for rape and health of the woman in abortion prohibition legislation.

  3. CSK says:


    But Rubio’s not really getting the ultra-conservatives on board. They’re still obsessed with his original immigration reform plan. Trump, on the other hand, has promised to build them a wall–and make Mexico pay for it. Good luck with that one, but they seem to believe it implicitly. They ignore all Trump’s previous flip-flops on immigration–and everything else, for that matter.

    Ted Cruz obviously expects Trump to bail at some point, since he’s stated quite bluntly that he expects to pick up Trump’s supporters.

  4. DK says:

    @al-Ameda: Hillary has many strongly-held beliefs — she’s been a long and consistent advocate for women, families, children, education, and healthcare. She’s long urged that taxes be raised on the rich, and she was chairing the Legal Services Corporation providing legal aid to poor criminals back during the Carter era. Of course, she has evolved on some issues — like most rational, reasonable people do as they grow, change, and become privy to new ideas and information. Only extremists — on both left and right — seem to never changed their positions, no matter what.

    It’s not a 180 to support trade negotiations but disagree with the final agreement. Of course she supported trade negotiations with Asia when she was Obama’s Secretary of State — that was her job. That does not require her to support the final version as completed by John Kerry and her former boss. If I walk into a car dealership and say “I love that vehicle” but the final contract offer is terrible, me walking away from the deal does not mean I’ve flip-flopped.

    Opponents of TPP are disingenuous — they’re not just opposed to this agreement as written, they’re opposed to trade, period. Which is ridiculous: healthy nations must engage in trade with their allies. It’s how ideas and resources are exchanged. Bernie came out against the final version of TPP within minutes of the announcement — there’s no way he read its details. Hillary has made no statement in support of TPP since leaving State, indicating repeatedly that Kerry/Obama needed space to negotiate. The negotiations are now over; Hillary read the details and concluded it’s not as good as it could have been. That’s an adult position. And incidentally, it’s also Elizabeth Warren’s position, since she is not opposed to any trade, but just to bad trade — and has said she would support a better-written TPP with more consumer class protection.

  5. Tillman says:


    If I walk into a car dealership and say “I love that vehicle” but the final contract offer is terrible, me walking away from the deal does not mean I’ve flip-flopped.

    That’s a really bad analogy. Is the car analogous to the deal, or is the contract? Either way, it doesn’t make sense.

    Opponents of TPP are disingenuous — they’re not just opposed to this agreement as written, they’re opposed to trade, period.

    This is a strawman, but the paragraph underneath it is incoherent. Opponents of TPP are disingenuous and against all trade; Bernie’s bad for coming out against it immediately, but Hillary’s good for coming out against it later?

  6. al-Ameda says:


    Ted Cruz obviously expects Trump to bail at some point, since he’s stated quite bluntly that he expects to pick up Trump’s supporters.

    I think that’s a pretty good bet. I still believe that at the end the GOP final four will be, in no particular order, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Bush. That sets up a classic insider (Bush, Kasich) outsider (Cruz) cypher (Rubio) finale.

  7. Steve Evets says:

    I think both parties wish that it were that the other party would choose first and then they would counter with their choice. Ultimately the entire point of either party in having a candidate is to have one who really has the ability to win the general election–losers don’t get to decide anything.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Not sure I see Rubio as “formidable”. When he speaks, it becomes apparent that he is a lightweight pretty quickly. I also think that the fact that he has never been able to manage his personal finances successfully will drag on him when it becomes common knowledge.

  9. CrustyDem says:


    He’s absolutely a lightweight, but he’s the only GOP candidate who looks and sounds like someone running for president. If Rubio rises and that forces Trump out, Cruz won’t get a chance to take Trump’s support (plus Cruz is so damn unlikable). I suspect once reality sets in, Rubio will be the choice.

  10. Grumpy Realist says:

    @CrustyDem: it is interesting how Jeb Bush has turned into Ugly Betty at the prom.

  11. CSK says:

    @Grumpy Realist:

    “The base” hates him worse than they hate Obama.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Grumpy Realist:
    Why do you have to insult Ugly Betty by comparing her to JEB!?

  13. SenyorDave says:

    @CSK: “The base” hates him worse than they hate Obama.

    I’m not sure that there has ever been a human born that the “base” hates worse than Obama.

    I could definitely see Rubio as the nominee, but he seems like he has a couple major weaknesses. He comes off as lacking any sort of gravitas, his flip-flop on immigration reform will definitely be a problem, and he seems to have some financial skeletons.

  14. James Pearce says:

    I’m not going long on Rubio. His rise has a “flavor of the month” feel to it, the latest trend in fickle tastes. There’s a contingent on the right that’s not looking for a voice but a vessel, and Rubio seems to be fulfilling that function right now.

    Trump and Carson have eight times the support of Rubio. If Rubio pulls some of those voters away, they’re not the kind of votes that are going to help him become President.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @C. Clavin: True, true. At least Ugly Betty is intelligent.

    (I was going to use the term “fat girl with glasses and braces” but thought the description a little non-visual.)

    We’ll know that Jeb really has slid off the bench of possibilities when those who might otherwise be donating to him pick someone else. I still think that the establishment Republicans will hold on to Bush like grim death until they’re completely convinced he isn’t acceptable. Yeah, the base makes a lot of noise, but after all their huffing and puffing, are they really going to stay home?

    Just as I know I’ll end up voting for Hillary in the general election even though I’m going to vote for Bernie in the primaries.

  16. Tillman says:

    @James Pearce:

    His rise has a “flavor of the month” feel to it, the latest trend in fickle tastes.

    Trump and Carson have eight times the support of Rubio.

    The incongruence here is why I don’t reckon most criticism of Rubio as serious. The flavors of the month we saw in 2012 were all anti-Romneys who surged in the polls as the Republican base looked for someone acceptable. Rubio has not been subject to such fluctuations; his support has only steadily grown. The element that has fluctuated has been the media’s attention span. There’s been a lot of commentary from political journalists in the last few weeks about Rubio’s rise. They’re filling the gap between twenty-million-viewership Republican debates with speculation, and making more of this rise than is apparent. Besides, the sudden number of people who tentatively agree with me has me feeling Marxish about it. (“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”)

    Otherwise, his financial issues aren’t more worrying than the continued perception (regardless of truth) that Clinton’s foundation took money for political favors while in office, or the absolute falsity of the famous line that the Clintons were “flat broke” on leaving office in 2001. Hell, the fact that he paid off student loans with a book advance will resonate with a population excessively burdened by student debt. He’s a better performer of politics than his rivals. That commenters here can see through the performance (either due to differing ideology or honest insight) doesn’t negate that the performance will work on other people whose votes actually count towards gaining the nomination.

  17. James Pearce says:


    The flavors of the month we saw in 2012 were all anti-Romneys who surged in the polls as the Republican base looked for someone acceptable.

    Taking this into account, my “flavor of the month” analogy doesn’t hold up. In this case, Rubio’s the Romney, Carson (perhaps) the flavor of the month.

    I just see before me nearly half of the Republican voter pool supporting weirdos and goofs (Trump, Carson, and Cruz), and very few of them (8% woohoo!) supporting Rubio. He will certainly do better as the weirdos and goofs flame out, but Rubio’s not the guy they want. He’s the guy they could live with.

  18. MikeSJ says:

    Any day now. That’s when Trump is going to drop out. Any day now…

    We’ve been hearing that for how long now? He’s still leading in all the polls. He has unlimited money. He gets all the free air time he wants.

    Here’s a thought for you. Trump doesn’t drop out. And he continues to lead in all the polls in all the states. The real candidates stay in the ratings basement and Trumps only competitors are the other clowns, Carson and Fiorina.

    Which means Trump is going to be the nominee.

    It seems unbelievable but so far I don’t see anything indicating otherwise.

  19. Grumpy Realist says:

    @MikeSJ: I suspects that Donald Trump will bail out as soon as his run starts costing him real money.

  20. MikeSJ says:

    @Grumpy Realist:

    I think your point is quite valid, I was convinced he’d drop out before he had to do a financial disclosure statement.

    I have a hunch the ego boost he’s getting is enough to keep him chugging along despite the costs, especially if he continues to lead in the polls.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @MikeSJ: So far he hasn’t had to pay much–a few million dollars are crumbs for someone like Trump. And he’s received all this free publicity from the media, plus all those softball questions….

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @MikeSJ: I, too, expected him to drop out before financial disclosure. From some of the commentary at the time it sounds like these financial disclosures are not well enforced or audited, so Trump could put in whatever he wanted to say and pinky swear to it. He may handle cost the same way. He’ll start taking donations, then he’ll lie about it. “Sure Charlie Koch gave me 10 million, but I don’t need it, I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t owe him anything for it. People are just throwing money at me because I’m so yooooge.”

  23. Slugger says:

    I am definitely having second thoughts about the money that I bet on Bush. I hope that I’ll be able to recoup some in the future by selling the JEB! swag that I own on the nostalgia hipster market.
    Trump as the nominee sounded fantastic crazy a few months ago, but as I have said before there is a solid block of real Americans- white, male, outside the coastal economic growth zones- who are painfully aware that the farm economy and the rustbelt industries will not have job opportunities in the foreseeable future. Their property values are not rising, and even their racial/gender positions are less valuable. Trump seems to speak to them. The beautifully coiffed hair of regular politicians is not attractive to them. They are angry and want someone who wants ” to take the country back.”Can a mainstream countryclub Republican take them away from Trump?

  24. gVOR08 says:


    Can a mainstream countryclub Republican take them away from Trump?

    I sure don’t know anymore, and as long as there’s a chance one of them could be elected Prez I ‘m not sure I wouldn’t prefer Trump to Bush.

    The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m getting to where I would really like my country back from the Tea Party and the GOPs who pander to them.

  25. charon says:


    The press and media are just now noticing how wacko the stuff Dr Ben says really is, and doing stories on this. So I am curious if Ben’s poll numbers hold up going forward. Fiorina has already faded, not really polling any better than Rubio/Bush/Cruz.

  26. Dave D says:

    @Tillman: Another thing that should worry Dems about Rubio is PACs have already started ad runs in at least the Des Moines area. They are touting him as a candidate with “new” ideas like shredding the tax code and bringing back the American Dream. Honestly if you had no idea what his policy prescriptions were he sounds as populist as Hillary is trying to sound in her political ads running on the very same channels. Main difference is her campaign is running her ads while some shadowy 501c3 conservative charity organization is running stock footage and what sounds like ADR recording specifically for his ad. But we know that wouldn’t have possibly happened since they are not allowed to collude with their PAC money.

  27. MikeSJ says:


    …I ‘m not sure I wouldn’t prefer Trump to Bush.

    Trump, despite being a clown, a buffoon and an egomaniac still seems more steady the Jeb!.

    I think Trump would at least think twice before jumping into a war with Iran. He’d want to know what it would cost and what the down-sides would be.

    I’m not convinced Jeb! would hesitate for a second to go full bore into multiple wars.

  28. C. Clavin says:

    Christie is ready to start a shooting war with Russia…

    Languishing at the bottom in polls of the Republican presidential field, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey ramped up his tough talk on foreign policy on Monday, calling President Obama a “weakling” and saying that the United States should threaten to shoot down Russian planes conducting airstrikes in Syria.

    “My first phone call would be to Vladimir, and I’d say, ‘Listen, we’re enforcing this no-fly zone,’” Mr. Christie said on MSNBC. “And I mean we’re enforcing it against anyone, including you. So don’t try me. Don’t try me. Because I’ll do it.”

  29. gVOR08 says:


    his flip-flop on immigration reform will definitely be a problem

    I’m never sure how much weight to give this. They forgave Romney for sort of inventing Obamacare. Heck, they completely forgot about it. It seems like once you’re their conservative guy, you’re their conservative guy, and a good conservative like {Mitt, Marco} would never have {invented Obamacare, favored amnesty}, don’t bother me with any of your made up pointy headed libturd history. Plus he’s Hispanic so they’ll all automatically vote for him, they can’t see that he hates them just like me.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @MikeSJ: And Trumps economic policy, whatever it might be, would probably better than JEB!’s country club conservative policies which would presumably look a lot like W’s.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @DK: It is best to avoid entanglements and entrapment in a forest where one is unfamiliar. All is not what it may seem when dealing with those in the high country.