Trump Continues To Control The Race For The GOP Nomination

Notwithstanding the hopes of many Republicans, Donald Trump continues to be the person to beat in the race for the party's 2016 Presidential nomination.

Trump Escalator

Another day, another round of polls showing Donald Trump remains firmly at the top of the race for the Republican Presidential race, as well as seeming confirmation that his controversial proposal to bar Muslim immigration to the United States isn’t going to hurt him at all and may in fact help him rise in the polls even further.

First up, there’s a new national poll from CBS and The New York Times that shows Trump in his strongest position in the race so far this year, a point that becomes all the more significant when one realizes we are now less than two months away from the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary:

Donald J. Trump occupies his strongest position yet in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, yet nearly two-thirds of American voters say they are concerned or frightened about the prospect of a Trump presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll.

The poll was taken largely before his statement on Monday afternoon proposing to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States.

On the Democratic side, the poll found Hillary Clinton is maintaining her 20-point lead over Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The possibility of her winning the presidency in 2016 is only marginally more palatable to American voters than that of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump commands the support of 35 percent of Republican primary voters, leading his closest competitors, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (16 percent) and Ben Carson (13 percent) by a more than 2-to-1 margin. While Mr. Carson’s support was cut in half since the last time The Times and CBS News polled on the race in late October, Mr. Cruz has quadrupled his share. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida’s support stands at 9 percent, with the rest of the candidates at 4 percent or less.

Enthusiasm for and attention to the campaign are higher among Republican primary voters than among their Democratic counterparts. A 54 percent majority of Democratic primary voters said they had made up their minds about who they will support, while 64 percent of Republicans say it is still too early to be sure. Majorities of Trump and Clinton supporters say their decision is firm.

Over all, 24 percent of voters expressed concern and 40 percent fear about what Mr. Trump would do if elected president, whereas 23 percent said they are concerned and 34 percent scared about the possibility of a Clinton presidency. Not surprisingly, voters were sharply divided along partisan lines.

In the national poll average, this now means that Donald Trump has essentially a 2-to-1 advantage over his nearly rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, while Cruz is followed by Ben Carson and Marco Rubio, who are tied at 13.6% but clearly going in opposite directions as far as the trends are concerned. Those four are followed by Jeb Bush at 3.6% while the rest of the field is averaging below 3% and becoming increasingly irrelevant to the conversation. The numbers and trends in the Pollster average are largely the same. In other words, this poll, along with several other national polls that have come through in the past couple days show that the race for the Republican nomination continues to seem its seemingly solidification around a core group of four candidates at the top consisting of Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Carson, with Jeb Bush sitting seemingly alone in the middle of the field while the rest of the field fades away into seeming irrelevance. There’s still time for there to to be another reshuffling, of course, but with the next debate coming up next Tuesday and the holidays following quickly thereafter, it could be some time before any such movement occurs, assuming that it ever does.

Meanwhile, a new poll of South Carolina from Winthrop University taken entirely before Trump announced the new anti-Muslim immigration plan shows Trump (24%) leading Senator Ted Cruz (16%) by eight points, followed by Ben Carson (14%), Marco Rubio (11%), and Jeb Bush (9%), with all other candidates at 2% or less. A Fox News poll of Palmetto State Republicans, meanwhile, shows Trump with a larger lead and appears to show his support increasing after the immigration plan was announced:

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have commanding leads in the race for their parties’ nominations in South Carolina, according to the latest Fox News poll.

It’s no wonder Trump is leading.  He’s ahead among both those who prioritize national security and economic issues.  He’s the top pick among voters on the two most important candidate qualities — strong leader and, to a lesser degree, honest and trustworthy.  Plus, he’s considered the most electable — by a lot.

Trump leads with 35 percent among South Carolina Republican primary voters.  Ben Carson gets 15 percent, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio receive 14 percent each.

All other candidates are in single digits, including Jeb Bush at 5 percent.

The poll, released Wednesday, was conducted Saturday through Tuesday evenings.  Trump made provocative remarks Monday about barring Muslims from entering the United States.

It looks like his comments help him in South Carolina.  Support for Trump increased eight points after his statement — from 30 percent the first two nights vs. 38 percent the last two nights.  The shift is within the margin of sampling error. 

Republican pollster Daron Shaw says, “There are enough people in the last two nights of the sample to question the widespread assumption that Trump’s comments will hurt him among GOP primary voters.”  Shaw conducts the Fox News Poll with Democratic pollster Chris Anderson.

There’s no gender gap in Trump’s support, as about a third of men (37 percent) and women (32 percent) GOP voters make him their first choice.

Younger voters are less enthusiastic about The Donald.  Twenty-nine percent of those under 45 back him compared to 38 percent of those ages 45 and over.  Moreover, 30 percent of those under 45 say they would never vote for Trump.

The favorites among white evangelical Christians voting in the GOP primary are Trump (34 percent), Carson (18 percent), Cruz (15 percent) and Rubio (12 percent).

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham gets rough treatment from those who know him best.  Only two percent of his home-state voters support him in the nomination race.  And nearly one in five (18 percent) say they would never support him for the GOP nomination.

The top “never” support candidates are Trump, who has 24 percent saying they wouldn’t back him, and Bush, at 19 percent.

Among those part of the Tea Party movement, 28 percent say they would never back Bush or Graham.

National security is the most important issue for GOP primary voters in deciding their vote.  Thirty-nine percent feel that way compared with 24 percent who prioritize economic issues.  Some 16 percent say immigration issues will be most important and 6 percent say social issues.

Trump holds a wide lead among voters who say national security is their top issue.  He receives 32 percent — twice the support for Carson, Cruz and Rubio, who each get 16 percent among national security voters.

And those who prioritize economic issues back the same four candidates:  Trump (32 percent), Rubio (14 percent), Carson (12 percent) and Cruz (12 percent).

With these new South Carolina polls, the poll averages at both RealClearPolitics and Pollster show that the race there seems to be following the same trend as the national race, with Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Carson at the top, Bush in the middle, and everyone else fading. Meanwhile, the news that Trump’s support appears to have increased in the wake of the announcement of the anti-Muslim immigration plan on Monday isn’t entirely surprising given the polls we’ve already seen regarding antipathy toward Muslims generally among Republicans and the Bloomberg poll released last night that shows nearly two-thirds of Republicans support the plan. At the same time, though, it will be the polling conducted entirely after the announcement of the plan, and in the wake of the negative reaction to it, that will be the true test of both how GOP voters feel about the plan itself and whether there has been any impact on Trump’s level of support at the national or state level. The initial information available to us, though, would suggest that, notwithstanding whatever Republican insiders may want to hear, Trump’s ideas are popular enough inside the party that, yet again, he will escape paying any real price for saying something that one would have thought would be the end of any other politician.

All of this, of course, leads back to the issue of Republican insiders who see a Trump candidacy as a potential disaster in the making for the GOP should Trump become the nominee. As I’ve noted before, though, these same insiders don’t seem to have much of a plan at this point beyond hoping that primary and caucus voters wake up and get behind some other candidate(s) while strategists are already talking to down ballot candidates about how they should handle the possibility that Trump will be on the top of the ticket next year. In seeming response to those worries , there are a trio of pieces this morning that seem guaranteed to make those same insiders even more nervous than they already are. Lauren Fox at Talking Points Memo argues that nothing can stop Trump now thanks in no small part to the fact that Trump’s supporters are devoted to him in a way that we haven’t seen for a Republican Presidential candidate in quite some time. Indeed, the one comparison that comes to mind are the core supporters who rallied behind Barack Obama early in the 2008 cycle and propelled him to victory over Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. Henry Olsen at The Atlanticmeanwhile, puts forward the possibility that Trump’s actual level of support may actually be greater than what we’re seeing in the polls, and uses the example of the anti-immigrant right-wing parties in Europe as support for his argument. Finally, Paul Schwartzman and Jenna Johnson at The Washington Post look at Trump’s speeches, media appearances, and social media engagements and find a much smarter, more disciplined campaign than many of have been tempted to see, suggesting that Trump isn’t just going to fall apart in an Iowa blizzard or New Hampshire winter as many Republicans are likely hoping. At the very least, all of this suggests that if Trump can keep this up and actually starts winning primaries, then the prospect of stopping him may prove to be far more daunting than many Republicans who fear what he could to the party are hoping.

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. I think it is more accurate to say: “Trump Continues to Lead in the Polls”–it is impossible to speak of control of a process that has not yet started.

  2. At the very least, all of this suggests that if Trump can keep this up and actually starts winning primaries, then the prospect of stopping him may prove to be far more daunting than many Republicans who fear what he could to the party are hoping.

    Indeed–if he starts winning, and keeps winning, he will win.

    I will say this: “the party” cannot stop him if by “the party” anyone means the party organization. Only “the party” as manifested by primary voters can stop him (or nominate him).

  3. Kylopod says:

    Indeed, the one comparison that comes to mind are the core supporters who rallied behind Barack Obama early in the 2008 cycle and propelled him to victory over Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination.

    Obama from the beginning had far more support from party insiders than Trump does now. He was never opposed by the party establishment; he just happened not to be the top establishment choice originally.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thank you. We do need to remember that there is no such thing as “the Republicans”. There are conservative base voters, more moderate voters (or at least people keep telling me there are such people) candidates, elected officials, funders large and small, staff, campaign operatives, party staff, interest groups, and (in my estimation) an Establishment with at least two wings. Each class having different interests and priorities.

    I believe the poly sci definition of a party is something like ‘a coalition of interest seekers’. The Republican Party these days seems to me more like a religious denomination. A paid clergy and staff, some minimal level of organization, volunteers, and a bunch of believers, some threatening to schism from the less pure faith.

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    I don´t remember any statewide elected official that´s supporting Trump, with the exception of Jeff Sessions. Obama was tutored by a former Majority leader of the Senate.

  6. CSK says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Good points in both cases. But, in a perverse way, that makes Trump more appealing to his devotees, who like to think of him as the virtuous outsider standing up to the evil and corrupt insiders.

    It’s like some ghastly parody of “Shane.”

  7. James Pearce says:

    At the very least, all of this suggests that if Trump can keep this up and actually starts winning primaries, then the prospect of stopping him may prove to be far more daunting than many Republicans who fear what he could to the party are hoping.

    Liberals to Republicans: Don’t worry. We got this.

    Part of the reason “the establishment” is having no success in stopping Trump is that they all seem too eager to roll over for him. Fox News declared a very unjournalistic truce. His rivals won’t hit him too hard because they want to sop up his supporters in the unlikely event he implodes. If he wins the nomination, even his critics on the right have pledged to support him.

    They haven’t stopped Trump because they don’t really want to. They just want to be less embarrassed by him, and it seems the way they are doing that is by shedding the last vestiges of shame.

  8. Tony W says:

    I have been participating myself in all this negativity – but now I think we have all been underestimating the brilliance of Mr. Trump.

    By creating such a volatile cesspool of a campaign (expanding to the whole country if he wins), he will completely solve the immigration problem.

    Nobody in their right mind will come to the US – foreigners already think they’ll be shot if they visit, but Trump thinks big! His goal is to make the US a less attractive place to immigrate than, say, Cambodia of the 1970s.

  9. Mu says:

    All I want to know is at what day in the election cycle does a nomination become final? I want to put a bet on the date Trump is going to change his registration to democrat.

  10. Stan says:

    Headline in today’s Washington Post:

    Trump delays Israel trip, as Netanyahu criticizes his Muslim entry ban proposal

    A comment on my part would be superfluous.

  11. J-Dub says:

    @Tony W:

    Nobody in their right mind will come to the US

    Unfortunately, it might have a secondary effect where intelligent people might actually start leaving, leading to an even quicker descent into Idiocracy.

  12. Tony W says:

    @J-Dub: Can’t say I have not thought about it…..

  13. JohnMcC says:

    @CSK: Thank the FSM I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee when reading that!

  14. CSK says:


    “If Trump bails, I can visualize a great horde of loons chasing after him wailing: Truuuuuummmmp! Come back, Trump!”

  15. Bill Lefrak says:

    Bad demographics is a tough thing. You can’t really fix dumb, uneducated and irrational. Talk about horrible trifectas.

    We’ll see what happens, though. Pre-primary polling often turns out to be more retarded even than standard media-academe memes. Just ask President Dean. Or the Paulbots. Time and actual results ultimately will tell. No matter what, however, the long-term prospects are grim.

  16. pylon says:

    I keep thinking Trump just entered for the publicity, didn’t expect to do so well, doesn’t want to do so well and keeps saying more and more outrageous things to try and extricate himself without actually quitting. But it keeps backfiring on him.

  17. CSK says:


    That was the original theory, and I think there’s still some merit to it. But he may have been bedazzled by his own popularity, and will keep pushing till his ratings collapse.

    The problem with that, of course, is that the more outrageous/ignorant/vulgar he gets, the more popular he becomes.

  18. Tyrell says:

    Some polls I have seen give him 40 something percent of Democrat voters, and over 50 % independents.
    Every time other candidates and politicians jump on his latest pronouncements, blowups, and crazy ideas, his popularity goes up.
    I have talked to a lot of people who agree with a lot of what he says, but say they will not vote for him.
    He needs to stick to the economic issues, and trade.

  19. jewelbomb says:


    Some polls I have seen give him 40 something percent of Democrat voters

    I really, really, really doubt it. Link?

  20. @Tyrell:

    Like jewelbomb, I would love to see a link.

    Apropos of this discussion, an actual poll: Americans like Muslims more than they like Donald Trump

  21. Tillman says:

    It’s too bad the media really likes open candidates.

    “Trump represents something of a quandary for the media, especially TV networks. Privately, TV news producers acknowledge that Trump has turbocharged their ratings…”

    Essentially, TV news producers are wondering: “How do we keep getting the great ratings without helping elect the Fourth Reich?”

    In the same piece, Joe Scarborough said the problem was that Trump gives such great access to the media, just like John McCain did in 2000. “When John McCain was letting members of the press on his Straight Talk Express bus,” Scarborough explained, “other Republicans always said he got the benefit of the doubt.”

    In other words, Trump is so open and accommodating with the press that it makes it hard for reporters to hammer his insane ideas. Scarborough doesn’t seem to realize it, but that’s a pretty damning admission.

    I’ve seen it quoted elsewhere, I don’t believe it, but allegedly Trump has only a few less supporters than Bernie Sanders but something like twenty times the news coverage.

  22. Dave Francis says:

    You can blame the Southern border crisis on the both political parties, but mainly the Democratic administration. Since the abandonment of Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution Obama has used executive orders and crucified the US Border Patrol for doing their job, and then for interior enforcement ICE who have had their hands tied. The surge of illegal immigrant children continued unabated in November, pushing the Obama administration to announce emergency measures to try to handle a problem it thought it had solved earlier this year. The morale on the border agent has dropped to an all time low, owing to the signal throughout Central and South America that you will not be turned away.

    Corruption in Washington is evident, with the wealthy donors running the same old game with nothing for the American worker. I only trust in Donald Trump to bring order to government; stopping the bleeding of jobs out of the country and the rising numbers of businesses slipping away to low tax and wages in foreign countries. He will revitalize our countries economy as businesses return or find themselves paying extra taxes for sending their products to consumer America. Currently our country sinks under a serious federal deficit, while many nations have had a wonderful existence on the US dollar will begin to realize we are no longer an easy target.

    More jobs for Americans and legal immigrants of all races, will stabilize a country fallen into a mild form of anarchy. Civil unrest in our cities is to me the main reason for ordinary people remain in stagnant hopelessness of no jobs. Everybody will pay their fair share in taxes, with no corporate welfare anymore. Everybody will pay something, with no exemptions. Trumps wall will stem the rushing tide of millions of more foreigners, no longer welcome under Obamas open door policy. We need to look after our own. The people who truly need aid are our seniors and our military damaged armed forces, which Obama has decimated or ignored. Go to the dark streets and you would be numbed by old servicemen just discarded like trash. Trump will build our military to be our greatest asset and even bypassing the Chinese forces numbers and dwarfing there scale of weaponry.

    Donald Trump will be a real leader and not carrying any extra baggage as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Trump may be a billionaire and a real estate developer but cannot be influenced by affluent donations. His interest is making as he says “America Great Again’ instead of draining our resources as this government has done.

    Just two months into the new fiscal year, the amount of unaccompanied children jumping the border and getting caught is at an all-time high. So far, the U.S. Border Patrol has picked up over 10,500 — more than twice the number at the same point last year.

    Also the number of families trying to cross has surged, with more than 12,500 people caught — a 173 percent increase over last year all thanks to this un-America President who has forced on the citizenry and lawful immigrants in the Department of the Politically Correct Police to expose the Liberal effort to transform the people into cringing slaves by using racism as a raw fulcrum. The family surge is accentuated the changing nature of the flow of migrants, with parents progressively more risking the journey with young offspring in tow, hoping to take advantage of what they believe are compassionate deportation policies under President Obama.

    There is immense fault to go around, but the bottom line is the cost. These people are poor and uneducated and YOU the people are forced by federal and state law to intend to all their needs. We know the expenses entailed are the same as any human being, who in many cases must be cared for until they die. Our population is exploding, while our federal deficit keeps rising. The near 19 Trillion dollars are scary with no end in sight, with our own elderly retirees suffering, old soldiers, and our own share of homelessness. It will not happen under Trumps watch that for sure.

    The Liberals may make a few converts through their lies, but I am not stupid to fall for their pledges of free giveaways. We already have too many Americans, who are too lazy to take a job, while there is an ever increasing load on individuals who do work, but cannot bring enough in to feed the family. My ex wife has two adult children who spends all day playing video games and smoking pot, but hopefully under trump these “deadbeats” will be cut off from welfare and will have to fend for themselves. It’s hard for me to take, when after spending 26 years on cargo ships, carrying munitions for the military.

    Illegal immigration usually surges in the spring then drops in the summer and remains low through the winter months. This year the movement has defied that tendency, leaving the Obama Homeland Security scrambling to invigorate its ability to handle a problem that Homeland Security officials hoped was behind them.

    “We continue to aggressively work to secure our borders, address underlying the causes, which concurs with this administrations pressure to overrun our nation with illegal aliens as new Democratic voters. Until we perceive a new presidency the future with a useless President who cares so much more for his legacy and not the populace. The future looks dismal with this present government, but their might be a spark of hope? Increases in illegal migration, while ensuring that those with legitimate humanitarian claims are afforded the opportunity to seek protection,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

    The numbers of illegal aliens is forever growing and something must be done and soon? As we enter the final year of a bungling president and his entourage we must choose a new president. For me that’s Donald Trump; his statements are straight forward, to the fact and not applied in a smooth tongued way as the 2016 pack. To me his greatest positive feature is his thick skin, against the continuous attack by the Left and Right. The other contenders are governed by there wealthy owners, who donate all the money to the crusade of keeping the power in a small group of financiers who the Hillary Clintons, Jeb Bush’s are beholden too.

    The surge of Central American women and children began several years ago and peaked in May and June last year, when more than 20,000 were caught at the U.S.-Mexico border every month. By the end of last year, the numbers had dropped abruptly and Homeland Security officials were confident that they had solved the dilemma, but with a widely open border the rush of illegal aliens with undermanned Border Patrol have their limits.

    The numbers have climbed increasingly this year, however, and November’s 5,615 illegal immigrant children caught at the border is the highest monthly total since June 2014, when some 10,508 were detained. Among families, the 6,476 people apprehended in November — mostly women with young children — were the most since July 2014, when 7,436 were apprehended. The vast majority of unaccompanied children and families come from three Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

    Under Obama administration policy, illegal immigrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada cannot be sent home promptly. Instead, they must be processed and sent to live in municipal homes or with sponsors, awaiting court dates that often don’t arrive for years. This is the making of overpopulation and although we are a reasonable people, fervent and a nation of philanthropist people, we just cannot keep taking the waifs and strays anymore. We must have Donald Trumps wall and an more immediate recruitment of border patrol men and women and not just on the Southern Border, but our Canadian border as well to prevent (ISIL) terrorist from entry that way. Additionally we have heinous criminals crossing the border regions, and at the same time through Obamas orders, the Dept of Corrections is releasing thousands of them. And now we have the killing butchers from areas of the middle east, ready to massacre large groups of people.

    We must demand an army of ICE personnel to stop business owners hiring millions of illegal aliens instead of Americans and future citizens who are not finding jobs; they are instead given to unauthorized workers. Our only tool for this is MANDATORY E-VERIFY, not some limp Optional preference for companies to bend the rules? Punishment for business and Industrial CEO, Directors and management must face fines and prison. According to a news report the middle class are fading away, but TRUMP can alleviate this problem. TRUMPS wall and MANDATED E-VERIFY is the answer.

  23. David M says:

    @Dave Francis:

    The bad news is tl;dr

    The good news is that Obamacare should cover you when you’re hallucinating that there are little brown Oompa-Loompas everywhere.

  24. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Trump may be a billionaire and a real estate developer but cannot be influenced by affluent donations.

    You know I remember hearing that argument a lot. That was 2001 in the election campaigns of Silvio Berlusconi. He even proposed a “Contract with the Italians” based on Gingrichts Contract with America. In his own words:

    “I don’t need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats… beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family… I am making a sacrifice.”

    Of course he then proceeded to plunder Italy as mercilessly as no head of government before.

    What the rubes don’t get that you don’t get rich by “stealing” from the government. That feared “state employee corruption” is small change stuff. You get filthy rich by being already rich and then making government advance your own business interests. And what better way to do that than taking it over completely.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @Dave Francis:

    You can blame the Southern border crisis on the both political parties, but mainly the Democratic administration.

    Net negative immigration constitutes a ‘border crisis’?