A new poll of New Hampshire voters from CNN/WBUR finds Donald Trump holding on to his sizable lead in the first primary state. The race for the GOP nomination isn’t static, though, as Carly Fiorina has surged into second place and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has slid to fourth.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who led polling in New Hampshire earlier this summer has slipped into a tie for fifth with Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Unfortunately for Bush, his slip in the polls in New Hampshire comes in the middle of a massive $1 million ad buy in the state by his Super PAC, Right to Rise. In spite of the positive advertising, Bush continues to have favorable ratings worse than most other Republican candidates.
In the CNN poll, Trump comes in first with 26 percent support, roughly equal to where he has been in most recent polls. Fiorina, who was widely considered to have the stand-put performance in the second GOP debate, has surged into second place with 16 percent.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who also received good reviews for his performance in the last debate is in third place with 9 percent. Carson, with 8, is in fourth. Bush and Kasich are tied with 7 percent each. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have 5 percent each. The rest of the field, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul earns 3 percent or less.
The highest personal favorable ratings are, in order, Fiorina (62), Carson (60), Rubio (58) and Trump (55). The rest of the Republican field, including Jeb Bush, are at 50 or below. Bush’s favorable rating has fallen three points since June and today stands at just 47. In fact, Bush and Rand Paul are the only major candidates whose favorable rating fell over the Summer.
Even Chris Christie, who has been advertising in the state, has seen his favorable rating climb over the Summer from 31 to 50 percent. In recent weeks, a Christie Super PAC has spent over $1 million in ads for the Granite State. Christie’s path to the nomination has always included a good showing in New Hampshire. The increase in his personal favorables, however, hasn’t translated into an increase in support. The 5 percent support he earns in the latest poll matches his support earlier this Summer.
The singular loser in the NH ad wars is Lindsey Graham. In the past 2-3 weeks, his Super PAC has spent around $750,000 advertising in the state. Not only is he still only drawing 1 percent support, his personal unfavorables have jumped over the Summer from 40 percent negative to 53 percent negative. His favorable rating is essentially unchanged since June, registering a pitiful 18 percent in the latest poll. For voters, the more they know Sen. Graham, the less they like him.
One other major finding in the poll is the surge in the number of voters who list immigration as the most important issue. While the economy and national security remain the top two issues for voters, the number naming immigration as the top issue has doubled since June to 14 percent.
Interestingly, the jump in immigration as a top issue has come from a drop in the number of voters naming the economy as their top concern. In June, 44 percent of New Hampshire Republicans listed the economy as their top issue. In this latest poll, only 29 percent do. The number picking national security has stayed steady at around 20 percent.
The surge in immigration as a top issue has come, in other words, from voters switching from the economy to immigration. That one data point goes a long way to explaining Trump’s steady hold on the field in New Hampshire.
Campaigns aren’t always won by the candidate who can best address voters’ issues, but the candidate who can make the voters care most about the issue that drives their campaign. As long as immigration remains a top issue of Republicans in the state, Trump will likely poll at or very near the top of the field.