Trump Has Massive Lead In New CNN Poll

Donald Trump just keeps leading in the polls, and Republicans keep arguing that it can't last.

Donald Trump Speaking

A new national poll of the national race for the Republican Presidential nomination from CNN and ORC International has Donald Trump with one of the largest leads we’ve seen him hold in any poll to date, while Ben Carson continues to sink and Ted Cruz rises:

Donald Trump is once again alone at the top of the Republican field, according to the latest CNN/ORC Poll, with 36% of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents behind him, while his nearest competitor trails by 20 points.

Three candidates cluster behind Trump in the mid-teens, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 16%, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 14% and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 12%. All other candidates have the support of less than 5% of GOP voters in the race for the Republican Party’s nomination for president.

Carson (down 8 points since October), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (down 5 points to 3%) and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (down 4 points to 1%) have lost the most ground since the last CNN/ORC poll, conducted in mid-October.

Cruz (up 12 points) and Trump (up 9 points) are the greatest beneficiaries of those declines. Rubio is also up slightly, gaining 4 points — an increase within the poll’s margin of sampling error — since the last CNN/ORC poll.

Republican voters are most sharply divided by education. Among those GOP voters who hold college degrees, the race is a close contest between the top four contenders, with Cruz slightly in front at 22%, Carson and Rubio tied at 19% and Trump at 18%. Among those without college degrees, Trump holds a runaway lead: 46% support the businessman, compared with 12% for Cruz, 11% for Carson and just 8% for Rubio.

Several other recent polls have shown Trump reclaiming a solid lead atop the GOP field after several weeks of near parity with Carson. But the new poll finds the businessman with both his broadest support and his widest lead in any national live-interviewer telephone poll since he announced his candidacy in June.

The poll reflects Trump’s dominance over the rest of the field on the issues voters deem most important to them. He holds massive margins over other Republicans as the candidate most trusted to handle the economy (at 55%, Trump stands 46 percentage points over his nearest competitor), the federal budget (51%, up 41 points), illegal immigration (48%, up 34 points), ISIS (46%, up 31 points) and foreign policy (30%, up 13 points).

Looking at those Republicans who consider each issue to be “extremely important” to their vote, Trump’s standing on each issue is even stronger. Among those Republican voters who call the economy extremely important, for example, 60% say they trust Trump to handle that issue. Among immigration voters, 55% trust Trump on the issue. On foreign policy, Trump inches up to 32%, and among those who call terrorism an extremely important issue, 49% say they trust Trump most on ISIS.

The poll was conducted before the shootings in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday, carried out by a man reported to have been radicalized and his wife.

More generally, about 4 in 10 Republicans say Trump is the candidate who would be most effective at solving the country’s problems (42% name Trump, 14% Carson, 12% Cruz, 10% Rubio) and could best handle the responsibilities of being commander-in-chief (37% Trump, 16% Cruz, 11% Carson and 10% Rubio).

And a majority of Republican voters say they see Trump as the candidate with the best chances to win the general election next November (52% say Trump has the best chances there, compared with 15% for Rubio, 11% for Cruz and 10% for Carson).

On immigration, an issue that has been a focal point of Trump’s campaign, most Americans say the government should not attempt to deport all people living in the country illegally (63%), and even more say such a mass deportation wouldn’t be possible (81%). About half say such an effort would be harmful to the economy (47%), while about 3 in 10 say it would help (29%).

Among Republicans, a narrow majority (53%) think the government should try to deport all of the estimated 11 million immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally, but most think it wouldn’t ultimately be possible to achieve (73%). Republicans are more likely than others to see a deportation effort as helpful to the economy (44% think it would help, 30% that it would hurt).

The 36% that Trump reaches here is the among the highest numbers he’s seen in any poll that has been conducted in the past five months, although it’s worth noting that it does match recent polling from Reuters/Ipsos and Economist/YouGov, both of which are online polls that have traditionally shown Trump getting better numbers than he has in traditional polling. It’s also worth noting that there has been some suggestion today that the CNN poll may be inflating Trump’s level of support due to the order in which questions were asked in the poll, but that just reinforces the general caveat that one should consider individual poll results carefully and remember that they may not be entirely reflective of the state of public opinion. Notwithstanding that, though, it’s also worth noting that the general picture painted by this poll is consistent with the one we saw in the Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week. Like that poll, the CNN poll shows the GOP race essentially dividing itself into a group where we have four people at the top — Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Rubio, although with Carson apparently sinking slowly but surely — and then a huge drop off that brings us to candidates like Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee, followed by what essentially amount to the non-entity candidates at this point, a group that includes George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, and Jim Gilmore. To that extent, the new poll is entirely consistent with what seems to be a new trend in the Republican race as we head into the holidays.

 Looking at the poll averages, we see the same trends that the individual polls seem to be showing. In the RealClearPolitics national average, for example, Trump is in a commanding lead at the top with 30.3%, giving him a more than thirteen point lead over Ben Carson, who now stands at 17.3 points, which is well blow where he had been last months before all the questions about his campaign and his candidacy began to developed. After Carson, we have Cruz and Rubio who are tied at 13.5 points and both seemingly destined to fight it out for second place as Carson continues to sink. After that, there is no candidate averaging above 5%. The best showing is by Jeb Bush, who is at 4.8%, far below where he was before the last two debates which his campaign and supporters described as crucial. Bush is followed by Fiorina (3.3%), Christie (2.8%), Huckabee and Kasich (both at 2.3%), and Rand Paul (2.0%). After that, none of the candidates still in the race are averaging above one percent. The numbers are largely similar in the broader average measured at Pollster. Looking at the status of who might get invited to the December 15th CNN debate, which requires an average of 3.5% in select national polling or a 4% average in either Iowa  or New Hampshire, it currently appears that the only candidates guaranteed an invitation to the main stage debate would be Trump, Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Christie Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina are sitting on the bubble and, depending on polling released over the next week, may only be able to get in if CNN decides to round up poll results about 3.5% at the state level, The remaining candidates, including John Kasich and Mike Huckabee would get an invitation to the undercard debate, as would Fiorina, and Paul if they don’t make the main stage, and it seems likely most if not all of the remaining candidates may not get a debate invitation at all, a development which would seem to be fatal to their campaigns as we head into the holiday season when a lot of voters will likely tune out coverage of the race and it’s unlikely that poll numbers will move significantly before the next round of polling that will determine who gets invited to the last debate before the Iowa Caucuses, which will take place in Iowa on January 26, 2016.

 Inevitably, the latest round of polling is bringing up another round of commentary discounting the idea that Donald Trump really has a chance of being the Republican nominee for President. The two most notable today come from Stephanie Slade at Reason’s Hit & Run blog and David Brooks at The New York Times. Slade notes that there are still two months left until people start voting, and repeats a point made by Nate Silver that shows that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire don’t really commit to a candidate until we get much closer to caucus and primary day. Brooks makes a similar point, and argues that Trump will likely see his support drop off as we get closer to decision time for these voters. That may well be true, but the fact that Trump has dominated the polling for more than five months now and the closer we get to the primaries the less likely it seems that this support is just going to fade away. Much like many GOP insiders, Slade and Brooks seem to be putting their faith in the voters to reject Trump. What happens if they don’t, though?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I hesitate to say this but Nate Silver is whistling past the graveyard. The issue is not Trump, it’s the voters. The GOP voters in these polls now give 66% of their support to either Trump, Cruz or Carson, all of them rage-fueled. The barely rational rump of the GOP (Rubio, Kasich, Fiorina, Christie and Bush) now have a total of 24%.

    That is two-thirds crazy vs. one-quarter sane.

    Someone needs to tell me how, realistically, two-thirds of the Republican party is going to decide in the next two months to switch from batshit to semi-rational. One more ISIS blow-up, or a nice Hispanic gang war, and that two thirds will be 80%.

  2. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You’re right. If there are any more ISIS-inspired attacks on U.S. soil, or in the western world for that matter, we’ll be watching President Trump taking the oath of office in January 2017, a prospect that makes me ill.

    Democrats and the sane Republicans have to take the terrorist threat more seriously. No more mouthing about “workplace violence” when it clearly isn’t.

  3. CrustyDem says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Nailed it. I would totally agree with his position if A) there was a decent #2 choice and B) there was any hint of sanity from the electorate. When Trump originally pushed to the lead (at 15-20%), I figured his Achilles was the head-to-head matchup. Since a voter needs to be completely deranged to vote Trump, I would’ve thought 27% was his peak. Now? No idea, but the nomination is absolutely his to lose..

    I celebrate none of this…

  4. @michael reynolds:

    Someone needs to tell me how, realistically, two-thirds of the Republican party is going to decide in the next two months to switch from batshit to semi-rational. One more ISIS blow-up, or a nice Hispanic gang war, and that two thirds will be 80%.

    I don’t disagree, really, but as the one thing that I’m still not sure of is how likely it is that all these people saying they support Trump in the polls, many of whom according to their own responses in these same polls are not typical Republican primary voters, will actually turn out on a cold night in Iowa or a snowy day in New Hampshire. Much that that will depend on Trump’s get out the vote effort and whatever ground game he has in those and other states.

    So far, I’ve not seen much reporting on that aspect of the campaign and it’s an operation that really needs to start getting up and running soon so that they’re ready for the final push in January. Indeed, if you actually look at how Trump has spent out of pocket he has spent among the least of any of the candidates so far, and most of that on radio ads. Granted, given all the free media he gets he doesn’t necessarily need to spend money on paid media the way other candidates do, at least not yet. But ground operations cost money too and if he’s going to match his performance in the polls he’s going to need to start putting money into that.

    I keep looking for reports about that aspect of the race but, so far, it’s not getting much coverage in any of the early states.

  5. Davebo says:

    So Stephanie Slade is now a GOP insider?

    I guess the Libertarian party is indeed dead. Can someone take Nick Gillespie’s leather jacket away from him?

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’ve heard passing references (pundits doing panel) to Trump having a surprisingly good ground operation. No idea if that’s true.

    Meanwhile, Jeb has spent 30 million on ads and sits at margin of error.

  7. @michael reynolds:

    I’ve heard some reports to that effect too, but there’s not much of that reflected in the expenditure reports that were filed for the quarter that ended on September 30th. We’ll have to wait to see what the current quarter reports say when the FEC posts them some time in January.

  8. @Davebo:

    I didn’t say where was a GOP insider. I said she was making arguments similar to those being made by GOP insiders whose plan to deal with Trump basically seems to boil down to hoping he’ll go away.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    If Trump wins Iowa (pretty likely) and New Hampshire (perhaps slightly less likely) the next stop is South Carolina, which will absolutely go for Trump if he’s still viable by then.

    And then, on February 23: Nevada, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts and Minnesota. He could lose those last two, but by that point it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that he may have won 9 out of 11 caucuses or primaries.

    And then, Super Tuesday, March 1, less than 3 months from now. North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. Say he loses Vermont (not exactly a GOP bellwether) and Virginia. He’s at 14 wins to 4 losses.

    I take all the points about late deciders and the non-traditional character of his voters, and those are valid points (or hopes) but the GOP is right to be shi–ing itself.

    Correction: Feb 23 is just Nevada, the rest are Super T, which unfortunately doesn’t alter anything.

  10. Davebo says:

    For what it’s worth, the comments section on that Hit & Run post is pure comedy gold!

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @CrustyDem: I believe that’s 27% of the entire electorate. IIRC self described Republican primary voters are about 33% of the entire electorate. It appears that if we drew a Ven diagram, the 27% would be almost wholly contained within that 33%, giving Trump potentially 82% of the Republican primary electorate. In fact, it may come down to only Jeb, James and Doug voting against Trump in the primaries, and Doug will probably sit out the R primary.

  12. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Don’t fret Doug. The Libertarian party isn’t dead.

    It never existed in the first place.

  13. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think the hope that Trump will just go away is premised on the belief that if he loses Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll be so enraged by losing that he’ll bail. This isn’t an entirely off-the-wall assessment. Trump isn’t a politician; he’s not–at least by his lights–used to losing, whereas most people who run for public office understand that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Several of our presidents were guys who lost the first go-round.

    Trump is accustomed to winning–again, “winning” according to his lights, which means he’s been able to bully, bribe, or con his way to prevailing in business situations. Everyone around him feeds his ego. Are his closest advisors anything but toadies and lickspittles? People who run for office and held office, on the other hand, have people around them who keep them–somewhat, anyway–tethered to reality. Trump inhabits his own universe.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    The two most notable today come from … and David Brooks at The New York Times.

    Sorry, no. Those are just not words that go together. Unless you mean notably bad. And David does not disappoint:

    But in the final month the mentality shifts. The question is no longer, What shiny object makes me feel good? The question is, Who do I need at this moment to do the job?

    There’s some rambling about Montaigne and something about rugs, but evidence for this assertion? No.

  15. stonetools says:

    I can see Doug Mataconis on election day, trying to decide whether he should vote for proto fascist Donald Trump or whether he should vote for good old Hillary Clinton. Hopefully he can bring himself to do the right thing.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @CSK:

    I think the hope that Trump will just go away is premised on the belief that if he loses Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll be so enraged by losing that he’ll bail.

    I think that’s it exactly. And let’s hope it happens just that way. I know people think Trump is easy to beat in the general, and they’re likely right, but the head-to-heads aren’t that reassuring.

    Also there is the fact that a Trump nom will lower the bar for candidates going forward. Not to mention making the US look silly and stupid.

  17. Tony W says:

    I’m trying to imagine a President Trump willingly giving up the office if he loses reelection or terms out. This guy feels like new territory.

  18. Stan says:

    After we invaded Iraq we fired the Iraqi officer corps and carefully left Iraqi munitions depots unguarded. Now one of our major parties may well nominate a man who pledges to antagonize our Moslem population while continuing to make it possible for anybody with a grudge to acquire military style weaponry. I’m not religious, but if I were I’d have to say that we’ve lost God’s favor.

  19. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Also there is the fact that a Trump nom will lower the bar for candidates going forward.

    I’m pretty sure we pulled that one off with McCain/Palin.

    As for looking silly or stupid, to who? Europe? Asia? South America?

    That ship has sailed Michael. But hey, if we just nuked Syria and Iraq I’m sure they’d fall in line.

  20. DrDaveT says:

    @Davebo:

    The Libertarian party […]

    Isn’t that an oxymoron? Like “hermit convention”?

  21. Davebo says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I’ve longed believed “Libertarians” are just Republicans to ashamed to admit it. I brought up Stephanie Slade because she’s a former speech writer for… no one it seems.

    But a cursory review of her writing at US News and of course “Reason” makes it clear she’s another closet Republican like our friend Doug here.

  22. Paul Hooson says:

    Carson talked crazy and lost half his support. Trump talks crazy everyday and his support doubles. Go figure…Welcome to the 2016 GOP nominee…

  23. CSK says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    Carson and Trump talk different kinds of crazy.

  24. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Well, I’m waiting for evidence that Trump has made plans for the interim operation of his very hands on (from what I understand and he seems to claim) business “empire.” Any body know who he has tapped to take over?

  25. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Someone needs to tell me how, realistically, two-thirds of the Republican party is going to decide in the next two months to switch from batshit to semi-rational.

    You could have said the same thing four years ago. Look at some of RCP’s averages from late Nov, early Dec 2011. In one, for example, Romney had 17%, while a majority of GOP voters supported Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, or Michelle Bachmann. And that was only one month, not two, from the Iowa caucuses (which started in early January last time).

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Davebo:

    I’ve longed believed “Libertarians” are just Republicans too ashamed to admit it.

    I think it’s simpler than that. They tend to be American boys from middle class families who loved Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein in their formative years, and never grew out of that adolescent crush. American and middle class because only the American middle class is sufficiently isolated from the realities of how wealth and power work to be susceptible to the Libertarian vision. The rich and the poor (and women) are more savvy about the odds of actually becoming one of the leaders, rather than a follower or peon or worse.

  27. Grewgills says:

    @Kylopod:
    Last time through Romney was consistently in second place and was THE establishment candidate. There was a parade of clowns that were the not-Romney flavor of the month, each of which quickly faded. This time around is rather different. The establishment does not have a candidate. There is Trump solidly in first and a parade of clowns passing through second place with no establishment candidate breaking 15%. Bush was the early establishment favorite and he is floundering at around 5%. Rubio could pull it out as a sort of establishment candidate, otherwise it’s going to be crazy.

  28. Kylopod says:

    @Grewgills:

    Last time through Romney was consistently in second place and was THE establishment candidate.

    That’s because the other establishment candidates (Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Perry) all flamed out quickly. That hasn’t happened this time. There are now currently three, maybe four establishment choices (Rubio, Bush, Kasich, and possibly Christie, maybe even Fiorina).

    Michael Reynolds pooh-poohs Nate Silver’s projections, but neither he nor you appear to have grasped his arguments. If you read his site, he talks about something called “the endorsement primary,” and he keeps track of the endorsements coming in from Republican governors, senators, and represenatives. It is based on research by the political scientists who wrote The Party Decides, which showed that endorsements are a much better predictor of a presidential candidate’s success in primaries than public opinion polls.

    So far, there have been relatively few endorsements from GOP party officials this year, and Jeb Bush technically still leads (though Rubio is quickly catching up as of late, which is strangely coinciding with a burst of support for him in the polls). Once the endorsements start really pouring in and the establishment throws its weight behind one of the candidates, the race may begin to look very different than it does now–just as Romney doubled and eventually tripled his support once the endorsements starting coming in for him.

    Maybe you don’t believe that’s going to happen. Maybe you think it’s obvious that the voters will simply ignore all those endorsements and stick with the clowns. But the point is, it’s awfully premature to say the establishment has already lost when they haven’t even acted yet. In other words, you’re declaring the game over before it’s even begun.

    Furthermore, you act like the fact that there was only one viable establishment choice last time means the establishment was stronger than it is now. I think in many ways the opposite is true. Imagine it’s March 2012 and Romney suddenly gets caught with the proverbial dead girl or live boy. That would have been chaos, and would have opened the real possibility of someone truly outlandish winning the nomination. If something like that were to happen now to, say, Rubio, the establishment will still have several fall-back options.

    If you think I’m simply acting as a mouthpiece for the GOP establishment, let me add a few points. I think there’s a very real possibility that Trump will go third party–which would be a glorious disaster for the GOP. And in any case, I don’t think the current dominance of Trump, Carson, Cruz is in any way irrelevant. I think whoever is nominated will have been influenced by the extremism of the current front-runners. It’s important to remember that Rubio came to the Senate as a Tea Partier, and he has a more conservative voting record than any recent Republican presidential nominee. He would also be the first GOP presidential nominee in modern times to oppose abortion in the case of rape. Those are all important considerations, and my biggest worry is that he’ll be declared a “moderate” simply because he looks that way in relative comparison with Trump, Carson, and Cruz–what I call the Iraqi Gandhi Effect.

  29. Grewgills says:

    @Kylopod:
    Nothing is guaranteed at this point. Rubio, probably has the best shot, but Trump and Crazy Caucus have a much better shot at it this time around than last. October 2011 Vegas had Romney at 66%. I don’t think he ever dropped much below that. The betting odds have it at about 20% for Rubio to take it now. All ‘establishment’ candidates are cumulatively at less than 50% and that has been true for a while. If it’s not Rubio, it will almost definitely be a crazy. I’d have guessed a little better odds for Rubio, but less than 33%. That leaves probably closer to 2/3s than 1/2 chance for crazy and that’s counting Rubio not crazy. tl;dr I don’t think we’re disagreeing as much as you think we are.

  30. Kylopod says:

    @Grewgills:

    I don’t think we’re disagreeing as much as you think we are.

    Maybe not. I was partly reacting to Michael Reynolds’ comment which made the Triumph of the Crazy Caucus sound inevitable, and I also had in mind a debate I had a few weeks ago with Washington Monthly‘s David Atkins, who declared the failure of the GOP establishment “certain.”

    What really gets me about those who are bullish on the chances of Trump, Carson, or Cruz is the assumption that the establishment has somehow already made its choices and had those choices rejected by the voters. That isn’t what has happened at all. The establishment didn’t choose Rubio or Jeb or anyone else. Most players in the establishment haven’t come forward with any choices at all. You can see this clearly from the relative lack of endorsements. They’re sitting on their hands. And that, more than anything else, explains the relative low numbers of Rubio, Jeb, etc.

    Another thing is that I’m skeptical of all these attempts to force a bunch of candidates into some broad category like “the crazy caucus” or “the sane caucus.” The way we assess the candidates isn’t necessarily the way the average GOP voter does. For example, I’m sure many of the far-right Tea Party types still like Rubio. It need not even be a majority in order to have an effect. That’s why I prefer to look at how individual candidates are doing; lumping them together with some other candidate is likely to lead to a distorted understanding of what’s going on, because it requires you to make oversimplistic assumptions about the motives of masses of voters, which are usually complex and contradictory.

    And I’m especially dubious about the recent claims that the GOP establishment will have to “take down” Trump. This seems to forget that Trump hasn’t gotten a majority in a single poll. He could maintain his current level of support and still easily lose in the primaries, simply because another candidate gets a higher percentage of the vote. (Even that may not be necessary, since in many primaries and caucuses, the win isn’t even based purely on popular vote.) The establishment doesn’t have to “take down” Trump, they just have to throw all their weight behind an alternative–something they haven’t done yet, but they still have time.

  31. Pch101 says:

    Front runners from previous elections as of 12/5 of the year prior, per the Washington Post:

    2004 – Tie between Howard Dean and Wesley Clark

    2008 – Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani

    2012 – Newt Gingrich

    Predicting who the next GOP candidate will be at this stage is just guesswork; sentiments shift in unpredictable directions for unpredictable reasons. Things will be clearer in a few months.

  32. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod:

    What really gets me about those who are bullish on the chances of Trump, Carson, or Cruz is the assumption that the establishment has somehow already made its choices and had those choices rejected by the voters.

    I think the actual feeling is the establishment’s choice(s) will be irrelevant because no establishment candidate will be able to break Trump’s perception of inevitability, because the establishment has waited too long in the futile hope the Trump problem would have taken care of itself by now.

    That’s why I prefer to look at how individual candidates are doing; lumping them together with some other candidate is likely to lead to a distorted understanding of what’s going on, because it requires you to make oversimplistic assumptions about the motives of masses of voters, which are usually complex and contradictory.

    On the other hand…if you look at the RCP averages graph you can quite clearly see every point Carson lost has gone directly to Trump. It’s like a mirror. Even in the CNN/ORC polling that prompted this blog post–between the last run and this, Carson down 8, Trump up 9. It’s the same pool of voters that is simply shifting allegiance.

  33. Kylopod says:

    @Mikey:

    I think the actual feeling is the establishment’s choice(s) will be irrelevant because no establishment candidate will be able to break Trump’s perception of inevitability, because the establishment has waited too long in the futile hope the Trump problem would have taken care of itself by now.

    I’m afraid that’s all gobbledygook that shows zero understanding of the way the nomination process works. Nominations aren’t won by “perception of inevitability” (tell that to Presidents Howard Dean, Rudy Giuliani, and Hillary Clinton); they are won by actual votes. And it’s absurd to say the establishment has “waited too long” when we’re two months away from when any voting begins.

    I agree with you about one thing, though: there is definitely a “feeling” that “the establishment choice(s) will be irrelevant.” I’ve seen that feeling expressed by many pundits. And it is a feeling based on no evidence at all. What these pundits fail to understand is that there are no establishment choices right now. There are candidates who have been dubbed “the establishment candidates,” but the establishment by and large has not made a choice yet. The power of the establishment cannot be dubbed irrelevant before the establishment has even attempted to exercise that power.

  34. Grewgills says:

    @Kylopod:
    Regarding the ‘endorsement primary’, I think 538 is correct about the correlation but they are putting the cart before the horse. The reason endorsements are generally predictive is that they are mostly made by risk averse politicians who have their fingers to the wind. The endorsements roll in when public and opinion maker feeling has coalesced. Rubio is looking like the best shot for the establishment and so endorsements are starting to trickle in. If in a couple of months Trump, or Cruz, or whoever looks inevitable endorsements will flow there. People, particularly politicians, like to back a winner.

  35. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod:

    I’m afraid that’s all gobbledygook that shows zero understanding of the way the nomination process works. Nominations aren’t won by “perception of inevitability” (tell that to Presidents Howard Dean, Rudy Giuliani, and Hillary Clinton); they are won by actual votes. And it’s absurd to say the establishment has “waited too long” when we’re two months away from when any voting begins.

    Well, that’s all true. But even if nominations aren’t won by “perception of inevitability,” neither is it irrelevant. It influences voters and it pulls endorsements.

  36. Kylopod says:

    @Grewgills: 538 relies on extensive research indicating that, yes, endorsements do have an effect on the success of candidates:

    In the book “The Party Decides” (2008), the most comprehensive study of the invisible primary, the political scientists Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel and John Zaller evaluated data on endorsements made in presidential nomination contests between 1980 and 2004 and found that “early endorsements in the invisible primary are the most important cause of candidate success in the state primaries and caucuses.”

    These endorsements can serve several purposes. In some cases, they directly influence voters who trust the judgment of governors and members of Congress from their party. In other cases, endorsements serve as a signal to other party elites. “It tells others who is acceptable and who is unacceptable,” Cohen, an associate professor of political science at James Madison University, said in an e-mail to FiveThirtyEight. “This is the coordination process that we believe goes on during the invisible primary and by way of public endorsements that was formerly and more formally undertaken at the convention.”

  37. Kylopod says:

    @Mikey:

    But even if nominations aren’t won by “perception of inevitability,” neither is it irrelevant. It influences voters and it pulls endorsements.

    Agreed. But that brings up another point: there is in fact no widespread “perception of inevitability” with Trump. None of the betting markets have a majority predicting Trump as the nominee. Most pundits don’t think he’s going to win. They’re worried they might be wrong about this, and for the first time we’ve been hearing mainstream pundits begin to seriously wonder if he will win. But that’s a far cry from considering him inevitable.

    That’s very different from the situation with Giuliani, Dean, and Hillary ’08. If you look at the commentary at the time (I’m not sure what the betting markets were saying), they were for a significant period of time regarded as the likeliest nominees, and particularly in Hillary’s case there was a perception of inevitability.

    Of course that just goes to show that such a perception doesn’t necessarily help a candidate, because it sets up high expectations so that if the candidate falls below them in the early states, it can be significantly damaging to their campaign. Hence Hillary’s third-place finish in Iowa dealt a blow to her campaign that was eventually fatal, whereas McCain’s fourth-place finish the same time hardly had any effect on his campaign, because he had wisely kept the expectations low.

  38. Grewgills says:

    @Kylopod:
    I’ll be interested to read that when I get time and see what their evidence is for the endorsements being a cause rather than simply a sign of how things are going.