Trump And Carson Lead, Bush Sinking, Christie In Debate Trouble In Latest GOP Polls

Fluctuations continue, but the Republican Presidential field appears to be sorting itself out as we near the beginning of a new phase of the campaign.

Two new national polls show show that the wild fluctuations in the Republican field that James Joyner wrote about earlier this week are continuing, but they also show that the make up of next Tuesday’s Fox Business Channel debate could be quite different from what we’ve seen in the three previous debates. The numbers also show signs of a possible new division the ranks of the candidates between those leading the race, those that seem to have the best potential to contend for the a place at the top of the field, and those whose campaigns are fading as we get closer to the beginning of the final stretch before voting actually starts.

First up, a new Quinnipiac poll has Trump and Carson on top with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both seeming to get benefits from their debate performances last week, and Jeb Bush’s campaign not doing well at all:

Jeb Bush’s support among Republicans nationally has plummeted to the low single digits in the latest Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday, as the former Florida governor’s campaign seeks to hit refresh with its “Jeb Can Fix It” tour.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson, meanwhile, continued to lead the field, with Carson outperforming Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical general-election matchup.

In the latest poll, conducted after last week’s third GOP debate in which Bush delivered a mediocre performance, just 4 percent of Republican and independent Republican-leaning voters said they would support Bush in their state’s primary. In the September survey, Bush earned 10 percent, trailing Trump, Carson and Carly Fiorina. And in terms of favorability, no one polled lower than Bush, at a net-negative of 33 points. Just 25 percent of all registered voters surveyed said they had a positive opinion of him, while 58 percent said they had a negative one.

For its part, the Bush campaign has tried to manage expectations among the media.

“FYI political press corps. Jeb’s going to have a few weeks of bad polls,” campaign communications director Tim Miller tweeted Monday. “Comebacks take time, we recognize and are prepared for that.”

Trump earned 24 percent from Republican voters this time, while Carson moved into a virtual tie at 23 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio jumped into third place with 14 percent, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 13 percent. Other candidates took in 3 percent or less support, with 9 percent undecided.

Then, late yesterday afternoon, Fox News Channel released a poll that seemed to confirm the numbers we saw from Quinnipiac:

Is the race for the Republican nomination finally shaking out?  Four candidates get double-digit backing — and then there’s a steep drop-off to the rest of the field.

The latest Fox News national poll on the 2016 election finds that Donald Trump has the edge, as GOP primary voters by wide margins identify him as the best candidate on the economy, as well as the one most likely to beat presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  The poll also finds Ben Carson remains within striking distance of Trump.

Here are the numbers:  Trump has the backing of 26 percent of Republican primary voters and is closely followed by Carson at 23 percent.  The next tier includes two first-term Cuban-American senators: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio at 11 percent each.  Those four capture the support of 7 in 10 primary voters (71 percent).

From there, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, and Rand Paul receive 4 percent each.

Carly Fiorina garners 3 percent, down from 5 percent last month and 9 percent in September.

The poll, released Wednesday, is one of two national telephone polls conducted entirely since the October 28 CNBC Republican debate.

Since mid-October, support for Kasich is up 3 percentage points, Trump and Rubio are up 2 points, and Cruz is up 1 point.  Carson has held steady while Bush has dropped by 4 points.

Chris Christie has 2 percent now, up from 1 percent last month.

Men (31 percent) are more likely than women (21 percent) to support Trump.  The top choice among women GOP primary voters is Carson at 25 percent.

The favorites among white evangelical Christians include Carson (33 percent), Trump (23 percent) and Cruz (12 percent).  Those three are also the top picks among the Tea Party movement, although in a different order: Trump (26 percent), Cruz (24 percent) and Carson (19 percent).

When each primary voter’s first and second-choice preferences are added together, Carson (43 percent) has the edge over Trump (41 percent).

Trump supporters go for Carson (36 percent), Rubio (10 percent), Bush (9 percent), and Cruz (9 percent) as their second-choice picks.

(Emphasis added)

The candidate who fares the worst in both of these polls, relatively speaking, is without question, Jeb Bush. While the former Florida Governor has sunk significantly in the polls nationally and at the state levels since Donald Trump entered the race, and even more so since the race began, he has at the very least managed to maintain a position somewhere in the middle of the pack. In this position, he could at least make the case to supporters and donors that, while his numbers are less than ideal, they were at least respectable enough to keep him within striking distance of being right the back in the race. In both of these polls, though, each of which were conducted entirely after the last Republican debate, he has slipped into four percent territory along with with candidates such as Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, and Rand Paul. By contrast, in the three recent polls that were conducted over a period that extended before and after the debate —- from CBS/NY Times, IDB/TIPP, and NBC/Wall Street Journal — Bush averaged seven percent. It should also be noted that the two most recent polls out of New Hampshire, from Monmouth University and television station WBUR, both of which were conducted completely after the last debate, have Bush at seven percent in the Granite State. It’s possible, of course, that the two new polls showing Bush at four percent are outliers to some extent, of course, but it’s also possible that we’re seeing a real impact from what pretty much everyone, including Bush himself, agrees was a disappointing debate performance that came on the heals of a high profile meeting with donors and advisers in Texas the weekend before prompted by an October that was already filled with bad news for the man once considered the most formidable candidate in the race. If that’s the case, then Bush’s uphill battle to get himself back into contender status is going to be even more difficult than it appeared.

Beyond Bush, it seems as though the race is beginning to sort itself out into three, possibly four, separate groups, at least according the national polls. At the top, of course, we have Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who are essentially now tied at the top of the RealClearPolitics polling average, although the much broader Pollster average shows Trump leading by more than four percentage points. Next, we have Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of whom have seen their number rise since the October 28th debate and who are now averaging 11.0% and 8.8% respectively. Rubio’s rise into prominence is something I’ve made note of already, and it’s continued in recent days with what seems to be a rolling announcement of endorsements from fellow Senators and other Republican officials. Cruz’s rise has been quieter, but is nonetheless just as real and the success he’s had at fundraising since getting the race suggests he’ll remain a factor in this race going forward. In the next group we have Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee, who are averaging between 5.8% (for Bush) and 2.6% (for Huckabee) and all of whom have seen their numbers fall steadily since the debates began to become the focus of the race. In the final group we have the guys who have been stuck in the undercard debates from the beginning, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum, along with former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore who has failed to perform well enough to be invited to anything other than the first undercard debate in August. In ordinary years, this last group would probably have ceased to exist by now, but for many reasons, including the fact that the undercard debates continue to give them free media time, they’ve all decided to hang on. How long that lasts is basically up to them at this point, but they are basically non-factors in this race who are, with the possible exception of Jindal, who is doing much better in Iowa than anywhere else, best ignored by anyone trying to understand what’s going on in the race.

Somewhere in between that middle of the pack group and the undercard group sits New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose fate may end up being sealed in the coming week. At the end of today, Fox Business Network will announce which candidates it is inviting to the main stage debate and which will be at the undercard debate next Tuesday. The criteria announced last week provide that candidates must average at least 2.5% in the four most recent national polls to qualify for the main stage, a number which at least initially seemed to put Christie, Rand Paul, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, in danger of failing to qualify. Based on these two most recent polls, though, it seems clear that Christie is the one who’s really in trouble. No matter which four of the five debates conducted in whole or in part since the last debate you select, Christie averaging 2.25%, and if you take all give of them he’s averaging 2.0%. Based on that criteria alone, he would not qualify for the main stage not withstanding the fact that he has recently seemed to move upward in the polls in New Hampshire, hitting seven percent in the new WBUR poll,tying him for fifth place with Jeb Bush, and five percent in the new Monmouth University poll. There has been some speculation that FBN may find a way to get Christie on the main stage due to his performance in the Granite State, but it’s unclear how much discretion they actually have based on their own criteria. Needless to say that if Christie fails to make the main stage debate it will be a massive hit to a campaign that has struggled to garner support since he entered the race on the last day of June. Two other candidates who may get bad news tonight are George Pataki and Bobby Jindal, neither of whom has garnered the one percent in any national poll that would entitle them to a place in the undercard debate.

Given the fluctuations we’ve seen in this race, both recently and over the course of this year, it is dangerous to start talking about the race sorting itself out. Things could change with the next round of polling, or after the next debate. Nonetheless, the closer we get to the beginning of 2016 and the time when candidates and voters will really be focusing on this race, it does appear that the GOP race may finally be sorting itself out a bit between front-runners, potential contenders, a middle pack made up mostly of people who have been fading for months, and a group that can safely be ignored. We may see some changes in which candidates falls into which group, in fact history tells us we probably will, but as we get closer to the time when voting starts this race may just be settling into something recognizable even if it the way candidates are sorted, and who’s leading, is unusual to say the least and extremely troubling to say the most.

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. Scott says:

    I don’t know how there can be any kind of rational discussion based on the polling. The numbers are wildly all over the place. Example: two Iowa Republican caucus polls on RCP yesterday. One has Carson up +8 on Trump, the other has Trump up +7. One has Rubio at 18, the other at 10. Maybe the aggregate can tell us something but I doubt that at this point.

  2. A few points to keep in mind regarding that point, Scott, and it applies to any polling of any race.

    First of all, at lot depends on who’s doing the polling and how big the universe of polls you’re looking at actually is. As Harry Enten at 538 and Philip Bump at The Fix point out in post-mortems discussing why the polling in Kentucky missed the surge toward Matt Bevin at the end of the campaign, when you have a limited number of polls and most of the polls you do have are made up of companies that are either new to the game or have a history of being less than reliable you should take the numbers with a grain of salt. In the specific case of Kentucky, for example, most of the big-name pollsters were basically ignoring the state and instead investing their money in polls of the Presidential race. Because of that, we arguably didn’t have a good picture of what was really going on. Of the three most recent polls in Iowa, I’d say that only Public Policy Polling is one that has a known, reliable reputation so I’m not sure what we should think of the other two, other than to say that Gravis has a history of unreliability.

    Second, since polls are just a snapshot in time it’s better to pay attention to trends and averages than a single result.

    Third, it’s usually the case in Presidential primaries that you’ll see fluctuations between national polling and the states. This is especially true in Iowa, I think, because the Republican electorate there is different from the national Republican base in many respects.

  3. potereassoluto says:

    Can’t see any reason for Fox putting Christie on main stage. Debate criteria are clear and all candidates should abide by the rules. Yes, in september RNC forced CNN to change debate criteria in order to favor Car-lying, and that was disgraceful and not to be replicated. Otherwise, all debates cycle turns into an utter and complete farce.

  4. stonetools says:

    I think this is a useful analysis. What is clear is that anyway you slice it, the likely Republican nominee will be from among Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Rubio. These have been the guys who have been most consistently at the top of the polls since summer.

    What’s really troubling, as you have noted, is that the Republican base really seems to want as a leader someone who appeals to Americans’ worst instincts-anti immigrant bigotry, religious intolerance, anti intellectualism, racism, and a refusal to compromise or work together pragmatically for the greater good. Someone like that really shouldn’t be President at this point in world history (or really at any point).
    It’s likely that the eventual Republican nominee (even if it is Rubio, the most “establishment” candidate) is going to have to make a lot of promises that no moderate is going to want to go along with. This is going to be a big problem for someone inclined to vote Republican.

  5. @stonetools:

    What is clear is that anyway you slice it, the likely Republican nominee will be from among Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Rubio.

    As things stand today, yes that’s how it looks. The only caveats to add are (1) the possibility that things could change for candidates like Kasich or Bush, especially Bush given the fact that he continues to have access to a deep donor network and well-organized campaign notwithstanding his recent slip in the polls and (2) a lot will depend on the ability of each of these candidates to get people to the polls or caucus location when February rolls around.

  6. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, no one wants to vote for Jeb. He’s exactly like the dweeb (female or male) your mom is continually nagging you to go out with because he/she is ” such a nice boy/girl”

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    But now his daddy has come out and lambasted Cheney and Rumsfeld for their idiocy…which is just going to keep Bushes ties to the failures of his brother front and center…and make him look like he needs his dads help to fight his battles…and he still hasn’t figured out how to talk about any of that.
    He’s toast, I think. Stranger things have happened. But I’m dubious.

  8. J-Dub says:

    Trump seems to have stopped talking about issues and is completely focused on the process now. All I ever see him talk about is poll numbers, who is up, who is down, with a few insults thrown in against anyone that challenges him.

  9. @J-Dub:

    If you’ve followed Trump through the years — and having grown up in the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State area he’s been a guy who was hard to ignore going all the way back to the mid-1980’s — it’s always been the case that the thing that Donald Trump talks about most frequently is how great Donald Trump is. In that respect, it’s not surprising to see him so obsessed with talking about poll numbers to the point where it’s typically the majority of the content of his stump speeches and interviews.

    Honestly, I can’t remember a politician in the past who was so eager to talk about themselves and their poll numbers, to the exclusion of nearly anything else, the way that this guy does.

  10. Scott says:

    @Grumpy Realist: Versus the exciting one who will hurt you later and break your heart.

  11. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Technically, Bush could come back but he would be coming back from a very low point. McCain was seen as “coming back from the dead” in 2007/8, but I don’t know that he was ever consistently below 10 per cent for weeks ( please check that out for me). In the Iowa caucuses McClain polled 13 percent, according to Wikipedia. That towers above where Jeb is now.
    If Jeb came back now, it would be the greatest political comeback in history.Very unlikely.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    Kevin Drum has an interesting, if not completely scientific analysis. He took the truthfulness scores for all the evaluated statements of the top tier candidates from Politifact, averaged them and used that to develop an overall truthfulness score. In the Republican field popularity is exactly inversely proportional to that score. Bush is the highest and Trump and Carson are virtually tied for the lowest.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    Carson…provisional leader of the Republican party…believes the Great Pyramids of Giza were built to store grain.
    How an intelligent person could even consider voting for today’s Republican party is beyond me.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @C. Clavin: I want to grab that guy by the ears and yell: “Have you ever seen the inside of the Pyramid of Cheops, you idiot?!” Then slam him over the head with a hard-covered copy of any decent book on Ancient Egypt.

    You DON’T build a big honkin’ pyramid out of blocks that weigh over a ton each to store grain, especially since the interior chambers are TINY by comparison

    God Carson is such an idiot.

  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Not only that, he believes they–all of the major ones–were built by Joseph.

    Not started by Joseph, mind you, but started and completed in time for the drought. Biblically speaking, they had 7 years warning.

    I can already see what a Carson presidency will look like: “What do you mean it will take a decade to build a wall/deport all muslimy people/forcibly convert everyone to Christianity?! It only took Joseph seven years to build all the pyramids!”

  16. CSK says:


    Thanks for the link to the Drum piece; that was interesting. From what I’ve gathered about Trump supporters, their response to this (outside of the usual “Kevin-Drum-is-a-lying-Commie”) would be one of two things:

    1. Trump is entirely truthful, and the lamestream media is just out to get him and makes up lies about him.


    2. It doesn’t matter if Trump lies because he’s going to throw all the Mexicans out and build that wall and make Mexico pay for it.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    It’s so early in the primary game – not even one caucus vote, not even one legitimate electoral vote – that it’s hard see where the polling is going … seriously. Yet, the non voting and non-caucusing has served to show us who these people are, and the herd is being thinned before a single vote has been cast. Excellent.

    I still do not believe that Carson and Trump will be there at the end. I used to believe that the finals would include Bush, Cruz and Rubio, now I think the finals will be Cruz and Rubio.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like Carson is now in for some fact-checking on his stories about his childhood.

    As someone pointed out, Carson appeals to the gullible. He may even believe the stories he tells himself–that still doesn’t make them true.

  19. charon says:

    Even without movement in the polling, delegate allocation may be different than the polling indicates. Check out the graph in this piece:

  20. Scott says:

    @grumpy realist: I think I prefer the conscious liar over the sincerely delusional.

  21. charon says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It’s confirmation bias. Once you convince them you are a Christian Good Man, their faith in you is established as unshakeable.

  22. C. Clavin says:
  23. CSK says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I think Mel Brooks beat all of us when he had Comicus, the unemployed stand-up philosopher, get a gig at Caesar’s Palace.

  24. jewelbomb says:

    @Neil Hudelson: @grumpy realist:

    The best part of the Carson Pyramid Theory™ is the brave stand he takes against the “various scientists” who apparently subscribe to the belief that it was alien technology that allowed the pyramids to be built. Carson makes the completely-not-insane point that “it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.” The level of insanity in this guy is just unfathomable and the fact that he has any supporters at all makes me feel legit fear for my country and the wider world.

  25. charon says:

    This is relevant, possibly the source, for Carson’s grain storage in pyramids ideas:

    Link found at Hullabaloo:

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @charon: Anyone who claims to be “puzzled” by how the blocks were created or moved into location has to be deliberately avoiding doing any research on the data that’s out there.

    The assumption that our ancestors were idiots never fails to surprise me.

  27. Tillman says:

    @CSK: Given the speculation over to what extent Carson’s campaign started out as grift, it’s not unthinkable that he at one point indulged in a treasure bath.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @charon: Your link to the primary rules issue is interesting. As i remember it, we have a President Obama now rather than a President Clinton because Obama’s team came up with a strategy that took advantage of the delegate rules. And they executed perfectly. Clinton’s hopes died a death of a thousand cuts.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    One more thing on the lying: I don’t expect it to have much affect on the Republican electorate as a whole, and is almost certainly enhancing their standing among the base. The last time I was surprised by the effect of a lie was when Ollie North was running for Senate in VA. He started out explaining why he had lied to Congress and how it was the patriotic thing to do, but soon noticed that even the base seemed a bit uncomfortable with that. So he just changed his story. He simply said he had never lied to Congress and it was the MSM smearing him. The MSM would play the tape of Oliver North in front of Congress saying “of course I lied to Congress! I had to lie to Congress! It was my patriotic duty to lie to Congress”. They would then roll the tape of him from literally the week before talking openly about why he lied to Congress. And then the tape of him from that day saying he had never lied to Congress and it was all a liberal plot. And once he said that, even with the evidence right there in front of him, his supporters believed him 100%.

  30. J-Dub says:

    Why does the GOP base want to believe these clowns? Because these middle-aged, poorly educated white men are desperate. Desperate to the point of dying. They are one of the few groups in the world whose life expectancy is actually declining. As a group, they are becoming a failure and need someone to blame and a someone to save them.

  31. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: And there’s also the problem that the pyramids are known for not having any doors. I worked in the food warehousing business for over a decade; doors are very important.

  32. J-Dub says:

    A pyramid full of grain and a torch to light the way. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

  33. MarkedMan says:

    Okay, I just saw where Carson said that “Secular Progressives are free to doubt his theory” and now I’ve got to wonder if he is really just trolling us. Not in the modern sense of the word, but in the original usenet sense: someone who shows up and says ridiculous things that he doesn’t believe just to get a rise out of folks.

    But I would be willing to bet anyone here a beer of their choice that 2-3 years from now there will be a solid conspiracy theory out there that the MSM and libruls are lying about the pyramids being hollow because otherwise it would prove the bible is true. And “Big Archaeology” is in on it.

  34. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: ” Not in the modern sense of the word, but in the original usenet sense: someone who shows up and says ridiculous things that he doesn’t believe just to get a rise out of folks.”

    Isn’t that the contemporary sense of the word, too?

  35. MarkedMan says:


    Isn’t that the contemporary sense of the word, too?

    I think that usage has gone out of favor and is now used to mean someone who says something really stupid. On this blog especially I see people call someone a troll and then go on to argue with them. If they meant it in the traditional sense I can’t see any reason to argue.

  36. CSK says:


    Yeah, I know: “Nice. Not thrilling, but nice.”

  37. kcfield says:

    @stonetools: Any thoughts on why Bush’s critique of Rubio’s missed votes didn’t resonate with voters or affect him in the polls? We are a country that values work ethic, and Cruz and Rubio are in the bottom five in terms of attendance/voting records in the Senate. If we were the hiring manager for a regular blue or white collar position, we would consider a candidate’s previous attendance record as a signficant factor in hiring: Why do folks not seem to care about this as one (of many) important factor in evaluating presidential candidates? Maybe the criticisim would have been better received if spoken by a higher polling candidate, since from Bush, it may have seemed disingenuous.