A couple of days ago, the latest Suffolk poll in New Hampshire showed Jeb Bush leading the GOP presidential field with 14% support, which surprised no one. The poll ended up causing quite a stir, however, because of who was in second place: Donald Trump enjoyed 11% support and was the only other candidate to reach double digits in New Hampshire.
There was ample reason to be skeptical. The poll’s sample size, for example, was quite modest, and most recent polling in the Granite State doesn’t show Trump with nearly that much support.
A day later, however, another poll – this time, national survey results from Fox News – raised eyebrows again.
There’s been a lineup change in the race for the GOP nomination, as businessman Donald Trump moves up after declaring his candidacy. He’s now second in the order after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who also got an uptick in support after his formal announcement. […]Bush tops the list of GOP contenders with 15 percent support among Republican primary voters. That’s up from 12 percent last month and his best showing yet. Support for Trump more than doubled since his announcement and that catapults him into the top tier at 11 percent. He’s followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent.
How many other candidates reached double digits in the Fox poll? None. Just the brother of a failed president, the host of a reality show, and a retired right-wing neurosurgeon who sees parallels between modern American life and Nazi Germany.
Regardless, if Trump is now running second nationally, at least in this poll, is it time to start looking at him as a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination?
In fact, in the same poll, Fox asked respondents, “Do you consider Donald Trump a serious presidential candidate or a sideshow?” The results weren’t close – 77% said they see Trump as a sideshow, while only 18% perceive him as a serious candidate.
Those numbers could, in theory, change if Trump somehow changes his persona, but if his announcement speech last week was any indication of what voters can expect, he likes his persona just the way it is and he’s unlikely to reinvent himself.
What’s more, let’s not discount the possibility of the Fox poll being an outlier. In general, Trump’s national support has been on a downward trajectory of late, and in a national NBC poll released this week, he generated a whopping 1%.
That’s a pretty big discrepancy – Trump is either surging into the top tier or he’s struggling at the bottom. Which is it? I’d recommend waiting for some additional data to help sort this out, but I’m highly skeptical of the former.
Finally, Trump just announced last week, and the public saw all kinds of media coverage, both from news organizations and from late-night hosts who celebrated his candidacy. In other words, if Trump were ever going to see some newfound support, it’d be now – there may be a contingent of Republican voters who respond to the party’s id on full display – but that doesn’t mean he’ll sustain double-digit backing over the long haul.
Going forward, the angle to keep an eye on is the debates, the first of which is six weeks from today. If Trump can maintain some modicum of national support, he may end up qualifying for the stage, denying an opportunity to a more serious candidate.