Trump Leads In Iowa, While Walker Declines

Donald Trump is leading in Iowa, and very few things make sense anymore.

Trump Announcement

Notwithstanding his performance in last week’s debate and the aftermath that followed, Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican Presidential race according to a new CNN/ORC poll out of Iowa, but the poll also confirms some significant shakeups further down the race:

Donald Trump has a significant lead in the race to win over likely Iowa caucus-goers, according to the first CNN/ORC poll in the state this cycle.

Trump tops the field with 22% and is the candidate seen as best able to handle top issues including the economy, illegal immigration and terrorism. He’s most cited as the one with the best chance of winning the general election, and, by a wide margin, as the candidate most likely to change the way things work in Washington.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson follows Trump in overall preference with 14%, bumping Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had held the top spot in most recent public polling in Iowa, down to third place with 9%. Walker is nearly even with a slew of other candidates.

Previous public polls had found Carson with around 10% support, but most were released before last week’s debate. A Suffolk University poll of Iowa Republicans released Tuesday found Carson’s closing remarks to be the most memorable moment for those who watched the prime time debate.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz follows the top three at 8%, with businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both at 7%. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is tied at 5% with senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. The rest of the field stands at 3% or less.

Two-thirds of Iowa Republicans who are likely to attend the caucus say they’re still trying to decide whom to support. Among the 34% who say they have made up their mind or are leading toward a candidate, Trump’s lead grows, and the top of the field shifts. Among that group, 33% back Trump, 14% Carson, 11% Fiorina, and 9% each back Paul and Walker. Cruz follows at 7%, and all others have less than 5% support.

But Trump’s advantages are not universal. He faces a large gender gap: While holding a 15-point lead over his nearest competitor among men (27% Trump to 12% Walker, Carson at 10%), he trails among women (20% back Carson, 15% Trump, and 11% support Fiorina). He runs behind Carson and about even with Walker and Cruz among those who describe themselves as “very conservative” (25% Carson, 15% each Cruz and Walker, 12% Trump), and he runs even with Carson among evangelical Christians (18% each Trump and Carson, 12% Cruz, 11% Huckabee, 10% Walker).


Trump’s support in Iowa rests on perceptions that he would do the best job handling several top issues and that he is most electable. He tops the list by wide margins when GOP caucus-goers are asked which candidate they trust most to handle the economy, illegal immigration and terrorism. And Trump holds his biggest advantage as the candidate who “is most likely to change the way things work in Washington,” 44% say Trump can do that, no other candidate hits double-digits.

But while Trump falters somewhat on representing the values of Republicans, no clear leader emerges on that question, with nine candidates at 5% or higher: 14% Carson, 12% Trump, 11% Huckabee, 10% Cruz, 9% Walker, 6% each Bush and Paul, and 5% each Fiorina and Jindal. And he falls well below the lead when voters are asked which candidate would best handle abortion; 17% each say Carson and Huckabee would be best on that score, 7% each choose Bush and Trump, 6% each Cruz, Paul and Walker, and Rubio stands at 5%.

The stories that one can draw out of this poll have as much to do with the relatively failure of several candidates to put forward a good debate performance last week despite the fact that they had been doing well in the polls in the run up to the debate itself. At the top of that list would have to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who had been leading in pretty much every poll out of the Hawkeye State for the past several months turned in what most observers, even those inclined to be sympathetic to him, have called a rather weak and unmemorable performance at the debate. This is likely a large part of the reason why Walker has fallen in the polls, although it is admittedly true that the 12% he gets in the new polls from Suffolk University and Public Policy Polling is better than the 9% he gets in this CNN poll.  The same can be said for Jeb Bush, who admittedly has not been strong in Iowa for some time now. By contrast, the candidates who, at least from the point of view of Republican voters, did well in the debate seem to benefiting from that at least in the short term. This includes Ben Carson, who has done well enough in recent polling to jump ahead Walker and into second place in the polling average. The same is true for Carly Fiorina, who had previously not polled any higher than 3% and now finds herself tied for fourth place with Ted Cruz at 8.0%. Whether this is a trend that continues for these candidates or not is something we’ll have to see, but at the very least it would appear that last week’s debate is resulting in some reorganization of the rankings among the Republican candidates for President.

As for Trump, well what is there to say at this point? Obviously, whatever prediction I or anyone else had made in the past about him flaming out of race in the near future didn’t come to pass, and they’re not likely to come to pass any time soon either. As I’ve said before, even if he did start declining in the polls Trump is somewhat immune to many of the pressures that might cause a candidate to drop out of the race for the White House. Even leaving that side, though, there’s certainly no reason for Trump to even think of getting out of the race while he’s leading in the polls, and there’s no sign that’s going to change any time in the near future. At the same time, as Nate Silver notes, it’s very unlikely that Trump will win the nomination. While he’s in the race, he will be continue to be the focus of the coverage and he will continue to drown out many of the other candidates. That will make it harder for those candidate to rise further in the polls unless and until we start getting to the point where other candidate start dropping, which may happen sooner rather than later. For the moment, though, this race is all about Donald Trump and there’s not much anyone can do about that.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, 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. CSK says:

    Well, yes…but didn’t President Michelle Bachmann also walk away with it in Iowa?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It’s the weakness of the establishment candidates that I find fascinating. Was Mitt Romney or John McCain ever as weak as Jeb Bush?

  3. TPF says:

    It turns out Walker was little more than a place holder in Iowa.

  4. Pete S says:

    …and that he is most electable.

    Anyone who listed Trump first in this category should not have any of their other answers count. This goes beyond delusion.

  5. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: Indeed! My Tea-Party siblings were amazingly motivated and enthusiastic about this presidential election cycle. “Such a deep bench!” they said. And three of the top five names in this poll have never held an office (even appointed! like say a Treasury Sec’y). A fourth, Sen Cruz, is reviled by his legislative peers as a bomb-thrower. Gov Walker has only 1/4th the numbers of the two non-politicians above him.

    Years ago sitting in PoliSci classes we were told that political parties exist for only one reason — to elect people to political offices. And that one could divide political parties into ‘state parties’ and ‘national parties’ or into ‘congressional parties’ and ‘presidential parties’.

    By this measure the Republicans have a completely brain dead ‘presidential party’. Now if only the Democrats could build some state and local organizations that were as good at displaying the insanity of their opponents…..

  6. MikeSJ says:

    I see lots of glowing press for Walker in the conservative press with very little attention to his extreme abortion stance (he would prefer to let a woman die rather than allow an abortion) and his cutting $250 million from U of W to give to a billionaire for a new stadium.

    If he’s sinking now I can’t imagine how much damage a real campaign against him would do.

    Just out of curiosity how bad were the candidates against him in Wisconsin anyway? How did this greasy, beady eyed extremist stay on as Governor?

  7. Tillman says:

    Your lede had the same feeling as my friend over Facebook yesterday when he asked, “At what point do we stop laughing at Trump and start panicking?”

  8. Modulo Myself says:

    How about Carson? A vanity candidate who debated like he was holding a mug of herbal tea and missing his pants and yet he’s in second place.

    Yet you can’t really point to anything that the Rubio, Bush or Walker have to offer, except war and bans of abortion in the case of rape. Bush couldn’t even explain how it was that he came to be giving money to Planned Parenthood. No one has even made an issue out of it. He lacks the presence to have that happen to him.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    Also, Walker may simply be too stupid-looking to compete. I swear he was mouth-breathing in the debate. He was caught nodding along with whatever it was whoever was next to him was saying and he looked like an absolute idiot. The internet has way too much attention to detail for a guy with a face like that to survive.

  10. Dave D says:

    @MikeSJ: Barrett is an alright guy and candidate but after he lost the first election he should have not run against him in the recall and maybe he would’ve had a chance during the 2014 reelection. Mary Burke was an empty suit who didn’t campaign well, didn’t have a strong message and basically hoped animus toward Walker would carry her to the Governors mansion. Maybe in a Presidential year she would’ve been right but not in a mid-term.

  11. Dave D says:

    @Modulo Myself: Carson’s SuperPac is spending a ton of money in Iowa right now. I pass a billboard for him everyday on my way to work that went up in April. Name recognition is the name of the game in these early polls..

  12. Grumpy Realist says:

    Even though I don’t like Trump, Walker is the one for which I reserve my contempt of a million white-hot Suns.

    Anything that can drag him down, good.

    Carson I predict is finished. His latest “the research I did with fetal baby parts was good; the research done by everyone else was evil!” Is going to crater him.

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Is schadenfreude necessarily always a bad thing?

    Because I’m rolling in it at the moment 😀

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: It’s all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out. Hillary could stumble and one of these clowns end up president.

    If push came to shove, I’d probably rather get stuck with Trump than any of the rest of these Bozos. He’d be entertaining (in a train wreck sort of way) and might not actively try to screw up the country.

  15. Scott F. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m with you. I believe only Rubio and Kasich have a chance in the General. (For all the money backing him, Jeb will never be able to shed his brother. Did you see he called going into Iraq to remove Saddam a “good deal” today? Wow!)

    But, Rubio’s name only appears in this CNN report as one of several also rans, while Kasich does rate even a mention.

  16. Scott F. says:


    I’m not so sure Trump’s buffoonery won’t be any less damaging to the country than any of the others’ raw maliciousness.

  17. al-Ameda says:


    Indeed! My Tea-Party siblings were amazingly motivated and enthusiastic about this presidential election cycle. “Such a deep bench!” they said. And three of the top five names in this poll have never held an office (even appointed! like say a Treasury Sec’y). A fourth, Sen Cruz, is reviled by his legislative peers as a bomb-thrower. Gov Walker has only 1/4th the numbers of the two non-politicians above him.

    My Tea Party oriented siblings and father (7 of 9 people) really like Trump and Ted Cruz – and actually prefer Ted. For the most part the other candidates are just not on their radar. Ted’s role in 2 government shutdowns really put Ted in good standing with my conservative family.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.: I like to remind people that Jeb! Bush? was one of the 25 signers of the original PNAC Statement of Principles in 1997. He is a whack job neocon and architect of our Iraq folly in his own right. And apparently learned not one thing from the experience. And I suspect has his own ties to the Saudi royal family. The man is way more dangerous than Trump’s buffoonery.

  19. CSK says:


    But, but…haven’t you heard? Jeb Bush is a Clinton lover! A liberal Democrat! He wants to flood the country with brown-skinned people!

    At least, that’s what the “base” thinks. They hate him more than they hate Obama.

  20. Scott F. says:


    Sure, warmongers are more dangerous than megalomaniacs. But, a megalomaniac at the head of a GOP that just loves it’s authoritarianism could wreak all sorts of its own kind of havoc.

    To be clear, all of it’s dangerous.

  21. Bob @ Youngstown says:


    might not actively try to screw up the country.

    You think that he might not TRY…..????

    I’ll assume that you misspoke ( or were being sarcastic ).

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Bob @ Youngstown: Not at all. God knows what Trumps trying to do, or would do. But it wouldn’t hold a candle to say W trying to privatize SS, running a big deficit in good times, and starting two wars, at least one for no good reason, and then failing to manage them. Or Walker’s efforts to turn WI into Brownback’s KS. Or Kasich’s failed attempts to do the same thing to OH. Rubio seems harmless enough, just a feckless twit, but we thought the same thing about W. These people are evil.

  23. Ron Beasley says:

    I see that even the Koch brothers are unhappy about Walkers arena deal.

  24. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ron Beasley: I don’t understand, what do they have against corporate welfare valuable infrastructure additions that create jobs in the invaluable temporary stadium service sector?

  25. Tony W says:

    Trump has a real shot at being the first impeached-and-convicted president. Ironic for the ‘you’re fired’ guy?

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tillman: Never. Never stop laughing at a joke, even if the jokes on you.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    They’re now discovering that a lot of Trump’s supporters are too young to vote.

  28. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    I must admit to a certain ironic enjoyment of the fact that the top 4 contenders in the “representing the values of Republicans” question are all batshit insane.

    Life imitating art and all that …

  29. Facebones says:

    It appears the more people see of Bush & Walker, the less they like them.

  30. grumpy realist says:
  31. Frank says:

    As an European, can I just say I’m puzzled and flabbergasted by the observation of how much weight and coverage is given to polls and candidate tidbits with the first vote almost half a year away? These are the things that make some people here compare your elections to a sports competition.

  32. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: No wonder people on the left don’t understand people on the right. That blog posting was cartoonish.

  33. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: Let’s look at that piece on alicublog. It refers to four other articles. It accuses the first of a No True Scotsman argument. But what does the first article really say? It says that to support Trump, people would have to “embrace single-payer health care, advocate stricter gun control, propose higher taxes on the wealthy, endorse the broad use of eminent domain, defend protectionism in trade, affirm the pro-choice cause, and cozy up warmly to the likes of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi”. I’m not going to try to give a full definition of conservatism, but it’s fair to point out that those positions aren’t True Conservatism.

    The second piece supposedly is “blaming Trump on Obama”. But it did no such thing. It compared the two. And it is true that both Obama and Trump campaigned (particularly on foreign policy) on their negotiating skills, that they would be able to get deals that the US hadn’t previously been able to based not on their experience but on their personal characteristics.

    The alicublog article calls Shapiro an “outright Trump defender”. Did the author read his article? Shapiro is explaining Trump defenders, not defending Trump. Big difference. Consider this passage:

    But the outrage against Trump’s crowd isn’t just unlikely to convince his followers to change their ways—it’s likely to push them further into Trump’s camp. The fact is this: Trump’s supporters like Trump. End of story. They like his persona because it seems unrefined, brusque, brutal. They like that he’s no bulls***, even though he’s bulls*** from elbows to eyeballs.

    Ditto with the fourth article, entitled “Angry Taxpayers, Not Stupid People, Are Backing Donald Trump”. The author, D.C. McAllister, states specifically that she doesn’t support Trump. But both McAllister and Shapiro are explaining the phenomenon. If you guys want to understand what the other side is thinking, read the McAllister and Shapiro pieces. I don’t agree with all the analysis in them, but they are analytical pieces, not partisan. In general, if you want to understand what someone is thinking, read them, or read people familiar with them who are providing analysis. Reading something like alicublog’s little fit doesn’t tell you anything about the people you don’t understand. alicublog isn’t even trying to.

  34. Pinky says:

    @Frank: Remember, we don’t have coalition governments or a parliamentary system, and we have two very stable parties. It’s four years in or four years out. We do get carried away, but our system puts more on the line.