2016 Republicans, Poll Watch, Trump

Poll Watch: Episode 2 (Through the Ceiling)

August 25, 2015

As the Summer of Trump comes to a close, the Trumpocalypse begins.

A new PPP poll out in New Hampshire has Trump at 35%.  This is borderline astounding.  Why you ask?

A few reasons:

  1. The second place candidate (Kasich) is at 11%
  2. The 2nd through 5th place positions are a combined 35%
  3. He has more than 1/3 of a 17 person field.
  4. This is New Hampshire. Voters are actually paying some attention.
  5. Though his negatives are still higher than some, 56% of likely NH Republican voters have a positive view of The Donald, only 32% negative.

Almost a month ago, Trump pulled 32% in a different NH poll, before dropping to 18% post-debate.  Why is this 35% so much more important than the other 32%?

  1. Elapsed Time
  2. Distribution
  3. Space

Almost another month has passed.  Trump has already spent more time at the top of the heap than the 2012 flavors of the month.

Each successive month that passes makes the polling more credible and gets Trump closer to primary day.

In the previous poll, the second place finisher had half his total instead of a third.  It took the next 3 contestants to equal his total, not 4.

As the numbers get slightly more meaningful, his margin is increasing.

There’s also more room for Trump to pick up votes.  While his poll number is up 3% from three weeks ago, his favorability rating is up further.

NOTE: The pre-debate poll from Gravis Marketing did not ask individual candidate approval ratings like PPP did, but no contemporary polling anywhere had Trump 56% favorable/ 32% unfavorable, even with Republican voters.

The conventional argument was once support started to consolidate around a couple of the established candidates, Trump would hit his ceiling and find himself behind.

That’s not yet mathematically possible.  First, as mentioned above, it would take many candidates to reach his number.

Second, Trump has a higher approval rating than most of the candidates projected to have a chance to pass him.

It isn’t even Labor Day yet.  Iowa caucus results usually have at least some impact on New Hampshire.  Voters are still kicking the tires.

I can make one statement though.  Trump is far more likely to win New Hampshire than Jeb Bush.

Jeb is in serious trouble.  He’s losing the verbal war with Trump on immigration.  Regardless of who is more correct in their statements, Jeb is the one spending his campaign events explaining himself.

His biggest argument is supposedly electability.  John Kasich, who is ahead of Bush in NH, has a better resume and more current experience.  Several others are closer to the ideal orthodox conservative.  Some of those have that fresh outsider smell.

When Trump has Jeb on the defensive, it makes voters wonder if he would hold up against Hillary or Biden.  If Bernie appears viable, why not roll the dice on someone more conservative?

Jeb is now at 7%.  That’s with Scott Walker at 7% and Marco Rubio at 4%.  Those candidates along with Chris Christie and Kasich are Bush’s closest competition.

They combine for 33%, and Kasich has a good chance of getting the largest share.  Not only is he already ahead, his tone is more Granite State friendly than some of the others.  He has the highest spread between favorable/unfavorable opinion in this group (Rubio and Walker are also strong, Bush and Christie underwater).

Several of these candidates will do poorly in Iowa, Bush and Walker are the ones who would get the most negative momentum from it.

While Jeb can go negative on Kasich, with this many candidates, there’s no guarantee Rubio or Walker wouldn’t wind up the beneficiary.

Both are currently considered stronger bets for the nomination than Kasich, who has spent much of his time in New Hampshire.  Better to finish behind him than Rubio or Walker.

So on the one hand, it’s hard to imagine Jeb doing much better than 20%.  I’d probably set his over/under at 15%, figuring he’ll have to start sounding better eventually.

On the other, Trump’s floor is probably in the 20% range at this point.  If your ceiling is the other guy’s floor, there’s a problem.

It is very possible Trump will lose ground.  Carly Fiorina is at 10%, Ben Carson at 6%.  At the moment, those are the two candidates with the highest favorable and lowest unfavorable ratings (Carson is +45, best in the field).

It’s extremely easy to see people opting for either of them if they tire of Trump.  Unlike Jeb, Fiorina has not suffered when Trump has attacked.  She can give it right back.

I have a sneaking and totally unverifiable feeling that Trump won’t win a war with Dr. Carson either.  I’d tell you The Donald wouldn’t attack him, but he’s still after Megyn Kelly, a fight I wouldn’t have expected him to start or survive.

Either way, 25% will win New Hampshire, maybe closer to 20%.  While I don’t expect Trump to get nominated, he’s currently the favorite to win New Hampshire, and extremely likely to finish in the top 3.

Jeb is unlikely to win and has at least as much chance to finish outside the top 3 as inside.  Without a noticeable improvement in his general political skills, his candidacy won’t survive February.

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