A new CNN/ORC poll finds Donald Trump continuing to dominate the Republican field for President. Trump has the support of a third of Republicans nationally in the crowded 17-candidate field. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a distant second, is the only other candidate to receive double-digit support.
Trump’s first place showing with 32 percent is followed by Carson with 19 percent. Jeb Bush is third with 9, followed by Ted Cruz at 7. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas each have 5 percent support. All other candidates, including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and the others earn 3 percent or less. The poll of 474 Republicans has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.
Although Jeb Bush currently sits third in the national poll, he is fast becoming the most polarizing candidate in the field. Almost half of Republicans, 47 percent, say they would be “dissatisfied” or “upset” if Bush were the nominee. Only 16 percent of Republicans would be “enthusiastic” with Bush leading the ticket.
By contrast, 43 percent of Republicans would be enthusiastic with Carson leading the party in 2016, roughly the same as the 40 percent who would be excited with Trump as the nominee.
Bush’s problems are compounded because illegal immigration has vaulted to one of the top concerns for Republican voters. A majority of Republicans, 51 percent, now say the issue will be “extremely important” in determining their vote. That figure is up 12 points from a CNN poll in June.
This poll was taken as the Labor Day holiday was ending, essentially closing out the summer pre-season of the nomination fight. With the unofficial end of summer, the candidates’ campaigns will enter a more aggressive phase, with more extensive ground operations and paid advertising. Bush’s Super PAC, for example, has booked $11 million in advertising in New Hampshire beginning next week through the end of the year.
Still, the summer months have completely upended the Republican nomination contest. Together, Trump and Carson earn the support of a majority of Republican voters, even though there are 15 other candidates. The mass swing to these two candidates, neither of whom as run for office before, is staggering. Every other candidate has lost considerable ground since June. At least a few who were expected to run competitive races, including Rand Paul and Rick Perry, are more likely to bow out of the race rather than launch a comeback.
The main takeaway though is that Jeb Bush, at one time the presumed front-runner, has not only lost ground, but has actually become unacceptable to almost half of the Republican electorate.