Trump Continues To Lead A Fluid GOP Field
Donald Trump is still in the lead of the Republican circus, but the rest of the field remains uncertain in the wake of the first debate.
Donald Trump is continuing his post-debate rise in the polls, but the rest of the field remains quite fluid and it’s still unclear what the stage will look like for next month’s debate:
Donald Trump has won his party’s trust on top issues more than any other Republican presidential candidate, and now stands as the clear leader in the race for the GOP nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.
The survey finds Trump with the support of 24% of Republican registered voters. His nearest competitor,former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, stands 11 points behind at 13%. Just behind Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carsonhas 9%, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker 8%, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul 6%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former tech CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all land at 5%, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rounding out the top 10 at 4%.
Trump is the biggest gainer in the poll, up 6 points since July according to the first nationwide CNN/ORC poll since the top candidates debated in Cleveland on Aug. 6. Carson gained 5 points and Fiorina 4 points. Trump has also boosted his favorability numbers among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, 58% have a favorable view of Trump now, that figure stood at 50% in the July survey.
These nationwide findings follow recent polling in Iowa and New Hampshire showing Trump also leads the Republican field in those two key early states.
Bush, who held the top spot in the field in most CNN/ORC polls on the race between last fall and Trump’s entry into the race in June, has seen his favorability ratings drop alongside his standing in the contest. Overall, 56% hold an unfavorable view of the former Florida governor and 42% of Republican voters have a negative impression. That’s an increase in negative views among all adults (up from 43% since July) and among Republican voters (up from 34% unfavorable).
While Kasich and Fiorina remain largely unknown nationally, those Republicans who do have an opinion of these two — both widely seen as debate standouts — tend to tilt positive. Fiorina has a 45% favorable to 11% unfavorable rating among Republican voters, with 43% unable to rate her, while Kasich’s is 32% favorable to 20% unfavorable, with 49% unable to rate him.
The poll suggests those behind Trump love him: He holds a 98% favorability rating among his supporters. But those Republican voters who aren’t supporting Trump are skeptical that he would help the party. Most Republicans (58%) say the party would have a better chance to win in 2016 with someone else at the top of the ticket, including 72% of those who don’t currently back the businessman.
Still, Trump has quickly won the trust of Republican voters on several top issues. According to the poll, 45% say they trust Trump more than any other Republican candidate on the economy — up 25 points since June, 44% say they trust Trump over the others on illegal immigration — up 30 points since June — and 32% trust him most to handle ISIS, no other candidate comes close on any of these issues.
On the economy and illegal immigration, Trump is far and away the top choice even among those Republicans who support someone else for the nomination (33% who say they will most likely vote for someone else say Trump is their most trusted on the economy, 29% say so on illegal immigration). Trump is also most trusted on social issues, 19% say he’s their top choice to handle that. Bush follows at 15%.
On two of these issues, Trump is more trusted among conservative Republicans than among moderate Republicans: When it comes to both the economy and illegal immigration, 50% of conservatives say they trust Trump, compared with 35% among moderates on each of those issues.
The most surprising thing about the latest Trump rise in the polls is the fact that Republicans in general seem to be becoming more used to the idea of him as a potential nominee. When he first entered the race, the polls showed that Trump was a highly polarizing figure, with those who supported Trump having a rather high opinion of him and those who were not having a very negative opinion. Additionally, in the beginning Trump was not scoring high in the polls on questions regarding which candidate the voters trusted on specific issues except with his supports. Now, he is scoring highly almost across the board even on issues that he has barely said a word about. To some extent, this is a reflection of the fact that he has risen in the polls and some people who were not supporting him before are supporting him now. Beyond that, though, it seems to suggest that the initial aversion that many Republicans had to Trump has worn away and that even many of those who don’t support him now seem to see him as more plausible Presidential candidate than they might have in the past. On some level of course, this isn’t surprising since much of what Trump is saying are things that Republicans agree with and that he is tapping into the populist outrage that has fueled the Tea Party movement and the hardcore base of the Republican Party since President Obama took office. What this means, of course, is the Trump phenomenon, whatever you might call it, isn’t likely to dissipate any time soon, which will likely hurt the GOP in the long run given that he does not resonate well outside the Republican Party.
Further down the field, the situation isn’t quite as clear as it is at the top. While previous post-debate polls had shown candidates such as Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina rising while Jeb Bush and Scott Walker declined, in this poll Bush at least is still polling in a relatively strong second place while Carson remains in roughly the same place he was in the national polls before the debate. Fiorina has most certainly risen the polls, but at 5% she’s doing about the same as John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. This is largely a reflection of the fact that she was widely perceived as having done very well in the early debate on August 6th, combined with the fact that before this debate she was relatively unknown by most voters outside of those who pay close attention to politics this far out from a Presidential election. Whether she can sustain that, and survive the scrutiny that will inevitably come with her new position in the polls, remains to be seen. As for the other candidates, the story isn’t all that different from what it was before the debate. Scott Walker continues to fall in the polls from the heights he was at before he entered the race, although the pace of that fall has arguably been accelerated by a lackluster performance in the debate. Chris Christie and Rand Paul also continue to fall in the polls, and there’s no sign that Rick Perry has done anything to save what seems for all the world like a dying campaign.
The big question, of course, will be what impact all these polls have on the debate to be held at the Reagan Library in September. Much like the Fox News debate, the rules that CNN has established for that debate provide that the main debate will be open to the people who are in the top ten of the average of the polls, with the remaining candidates relegated to a debate that will be aired earlier in the day. Based on the current RealClearPolitics average, the biggest change between this second debate and the first will be the fact that Carly Fiorina would qualify for the main stage, while Chris Christie would end up in the early debate assuming he even stays in the race. Also in the “Kids Table Debate” would be Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki. Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore would fall into this category as well but he did not receive an invitation from the Reagan Library, largely because he is generally non-existent in the polls. This lineup doesn’t seem like it’s likely to change any time over the next month, so this next debate could be the last hurrah for most of the candidates who don’t make the main stage, because the debates going forward after this one don’t include a provision for a “runner up” debate. At that point, perhaps, this ridiculously unwieldy field of seventeen candidates will start to contract and voters will start to really pay attention to the race. Until then, though, be prepared for a continuation of The Donald Trump Circus.