Going into 3rd debate: Nat’l & Iowa polls–Trump falls behind Carson, and then claims the polls are fictitious.
Over the past weekend, four Iowa polls showed Trump’s campaign stalling and then losing the lead to Dr. Carson. Our poll data analysis predicted this over a month ago, for reasons that we’ll note below, and now the first national poll confirms that it isn’t just an Iowa phenomenon, as many Trump supporters have alleged. Monday, the CBS/New York Times national poll of Republican voters showed Dr. Carson, for the first time, taking the lead over Donald Trump, 26 percent to 22 percent. Going into the third debate two of what many believe are Trump personality bugaboos, defensiveness and denial, are rearing their ugly heads as he argues that the debate won’t be fair and then denies the new polls numbers, reportedly arguing that the media “continues to report fictitious numbers,” and even blames Iowan’s for his troubles. In fairness, Trump subsequently admitted that he was in second place in Iowa. Today, Wednesday, October 28, Texas and Oklahoma poll results were published. The Texas poll showed that Trump’s earlier lead was erased and he was now virtually tied with Dr. Carson at 22 to 23 percent. As might be expected Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator, and Jeb Bush, whose brother George W, received more support than their national numbers at 14 and 13 percent, respectively. The Oklahoma poll had Carson on top of Trump by 25 percent to 19 percent. Rubio was a distant third at 9 percent. Readers of our more detailed poll analyses know that for several weeks, Trump’s Republican support numbers had stalled in the 23 to 28 percent region. Digging behind those top-line numbers revealed the problems that Trump’s divisive campaign faced. Simply put, Trump had very high “unfavorables,” and his then leading support level, in the large Republican field, belied much weaker numbers when supporters of the other candidates were asked to name their second choice. When those findings were combined with data that indicated an almost 100 percent name recognition among Republicans, and that 90 percent of those had already formed an opinion about him, it suggested that Donald Trump’s campaign was in serious trouble despite the fact that he was still leading in most polls. It seemed that Trump’s insulting and self-aggrandizing sound-bites, blaming others for every conceivable slight, which had garnered him an amazing amount of media attention, were about to boomerang on him. His shtick, bombastic, self-aggrandizing, and viciously insulting, though appealing to his core supporters, was wearing thin with a sizable number of the remaining Republican voters. Unlike many of the other Republican hopefuls, Trump was well known by Republicans, and, apart from his core supporters, whose numbers had leveled off, many didn’t like what they saw and heard.
Going into the Republican third debate, a lot of questions surfaced that will have to be answered. Can Donald Trump control his style to appear more presidential and widen his base of support? Trump’s immediate response to his polling issues, suggests that this would be quite a challenge, as he stepped up the personal attacks on Carson. Dr. Carson, he said, was even more “low-energy” than Jeb Bush, who until now was the primary focal point for Trump’s insults. He also took on Carson’s religion. Trump noted that he, himself, was a Presbyterian, a mainstream Christian denomination, and Carson was a Seventh Day Adventist, which he implied was fringe Christianity, perhaps even a cult. Trump’s campaign devolves into ever lower depths. Carson, for his part, left himself open to a religious purity test by repeatedly suggesting that anyone of the Muslim faith should not be allowed to run for president. I thought that Dr. Carson’s performance in the second debate was weak. Now that Dr. Carson’s better known, he will have to raise the level of his debate.
The new “flavor of the week,” Dr. Ben Carson, whose “unfavorables” are very low, and whose controversial religious themed campaign, with his anti-abortion stance might prove extreme even for this conservative Republican field, because of those views strongly appeals to the white born-again evangelist voters cohort. A big plus for Dr. Carson’s surge was the apparent blessing, recently, by Rupert Murdoch, who controls Fox media, that fell just a hair short of an outright endorsement. This guaranteed Carson’s campaign a lot of new attention at Fox, which runs the premier Republican oriented television network. The billionaire far right conservative Koch brothers have yet to endorse a candidate. They have contributed to several, but, with Scott Walker, their apparent first choice, having dropped out, Marco Rubio has received more Koch money than the other remaining hopefuls. The Koch brothers’ big money backing, has yet to be pledged, and will be a significant factor for whomever they settle upon.
Many supporters of the remaining candidates have all along believed that both Trump and Carson were out of touch with mainstream America and would implode of their own doing. Polls don’t clearly identify a third place candidate. Rubio, Fiorina, Cruz, and Bush are bunched closely together and their order varies from poll to poll. They are vying for a distant third position, however, and none has separated themself from the rest of the field. Even “also rans”– Huckabee, Kasich and Christie– are close enough to jump up with an outstanding debate. On the other hand, unless they somehow gain appeal among the Republican electorate, fundraising problems alone will likely make for early exits from the race. Paul, at about four percent, is close enough to make waves, but some of his libertarian policies, particularly on defense, present obstacles to his getting the Republican nomination and make him a very distant long-shot. The others seem destined to be just footnotes to the 2016 election.
On the Democratic Party side, Biden’s announcement that he wasn’t going to be a candidate, on paper at least, figures to insure Hillary’s nomination. Earlier polls showed Hillary the second choice of Biden supporters. Sanders should pick up most of whatever anti-Hillary vote remains, and despite the obvious enthusiasm of his supporters, his self-proclaimed Socialist label, if history is any teacher, suggests that he cannot win a general election. O’Malley hopes for some of the anti-Hillary vote, but his gaining the nomination seems like a very long shot. Presidential campaign historians might remember how McGovern’s enthusiastic supporters managed to gain him the Democratic nomination. Sanders supporters seem most like McGovern”s. Unlike 1972, however, there is no Viet Nam War to galvanize Democratic voters. McGovern didn’t carry the Socialist label, however. McGovern also didn’t have a Hillary Clinton with nearly a majority of Democratic voter support ahead of him. Sanders has stepped up his attacks on Clinton, and we’ll have to see to what effect. Hilary’s Benghazi testimony should only heighten her appeal to Democrats. We await post-Biden announcement/Benghazi testimony national poll results.