A new NBC News poll provides the first glimpse of the Republican race following the Fox News debate on Thursday.
The survey, conducted Friday and Saturday, finds Donald Trump holding his lead with 23 percent support among Republican primary voters. This is consistent with a Gravis Marketing poll taken after the debate, where 19 percent of Republicans said Trump won the debate.
The Gravis poll found that more Republicans, 22 percent, felt Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and political rookie, won the debate. In the NBC poll, Carson surged into third place in the nomination contest, earning 11 percent support.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz was the second choice in the NBC Poll, receiving support from 13 percent of Republican voters. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was fourth, with 11 percent, following her widely recognized domination of the “undercard” debate earlier Thursday evening.
The exact breakdown and percentage of the first seven spots in the NBC poll are: Trump (23), Cruz (13), Carson (11), Fiorina (8), Rubio (8), Bush (7) and Walker (7).
In other words, the highest poll ranking of a candidate acceptable to the Republicans in D.C. is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in fifth place with just 8 percent. This is stunning considering the obvious attacks on Trump by Fox moderators, the limited number of questions offered to Cruz and Carson and the relegation of Fiorina to a non-prime time debate slot.
In the post-debate analysis, Fox News roundly criticized Trump and heaped praise on Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Fox News anchor.
Obviously the NBC News poll is the first of many post-debate polls and the nomination contest is still in its very early days. Trump created a silly controversy for himself with an attack on Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly over the weekend, which isn’t factored into this poll’s results.
That said, something undeniably interesting is happening in the GOP nomination contest. Ratings for the Fox News debate were historic, with some 24 million Americans tuning in. The debate was one of the most watched shows on cable ever, never mind other news or political debate programs.
On Saturday, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is inexplicably also running for President, said Donald Trump was “inflicting permanent damage on the GOP.” He wants him booted from the nominating contest.
Trump is a volatile chemical, but there is no doubt his presence on the stage helped attract far more people than would have otherwise watched an early Presidential primary debate. The GOP should embrace the opportunity to reach millions of new voters with its message.
Of course, that assumes the GOP has a message it wants to communicate.
Watching both debates, it is obvious that Trump, Cruz, Carson and Fiorina were the most interesting people on the stage. The rest of the candidates were political pod people, repeating anodyne talking points that had been focus-grouped to within an inch of their lives. One would be very hard-pressed to match the text of an answer to the candidate who said it.
Americans are increasingly fed-up with politicians of all stripes. The fact that an aging hippy socialist with no prayer of becoming President (Sen. Bernie Sanders) can attract more than 10,000 people for a speech is as much an indictment of the entire political class as it is of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Dem frontrunner.
The Presidential politics will likely settle down into its ordinary, and boring, slog through November next year. The odds still favor the two parties coughing up two uninspiring career politicians to quibble before the declining number of Americans that still participate in politics.
Or, maybe not. This early post-debate poll confirms that the public is frustrated and turned off of politicians, no matter their resume or rhetoric. For most of the people on those twin debate stages, the message is very simple: We really don’t like you.