The latest poll from Qunnipiac confirms Donald Trump is maintaining a solid lead over the rest of the Republican pack, with Ben Carson slipping a bit, and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida moving into second place.
In fact, Trump actually gained a few points from the November Quinnipiac poll, rising from 24 percent to 27 percent. Carson slipped from 23 to 16 percent, and is now tied for third place with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Rubio narrowly edges them both out for second place with 17 percent.
Jeb Bush lags far behind the pack with 5 percent, while no one else polled above 3 percent. Eight percent of respondents declared themselves undecided. The first primary is now only two months away.
Tim Malloy, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, marveled at Trump’s resilience. “It doesn’t seem to matter what he says or who he offends, whether the facts are contested or the ‘political correctness’ is challenged, Donald Trump seems to be wearing Kevlar.”
Malloy cannot be said to marvel at Trump himself, however, as he thought prospective Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders “have to be hoping Trump is the GOP’s guy.”
It seems increasingly obvious that Marco Rubio is the GOP Establishment’s guy, with triple Jeb Bush’s support, and other Establishment-friendly candidates struggling to claw their way out of the asterisk bin. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is working on a trick-shot strategy that has him winning New Hampshire and storming the rest of the primaries by arguing that gubernatorial experience is preferable to electing a one-term senator like Rubio, but he actually slipped from 3 percent to 2 percent in the Q-poll… landing right next to Governor John Kasich of Ohio. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a market for the “governors make better presidents” sales pitch this time out.
Some thought Carly Fiorina’s stellar debate performances and mastery of the issues could make her an appealing “outsider” alternative to the Republican donor class, but she’s stuck at 3 percent. Fiorina has never been able to find a way to parlay her debate applause into sustained popularity with voters. Hers might be the candidacy most hurt by Trump inhaling all the media oxygen, because lacking a political organization or established constituency, she really needed earned-media energy to remain on voters’ minds between debates.
There has been talk of Bush and allied groups launching a major offensive against Rubio; it will be interesting to see if those plans are quietly scuttled under pressure from donors who see Rubio as the last viable alternative to “outsiders” Trump, Carson, and Cruz.
As for the Republican grassroots, it’s interesting to see Cruz tied with Trump among Tea Party voters, and actually leading him by 29 to 25 percent among “very conservative” Republicans. Rubio is slightly ahead of Trump among the “moderately conservative,” while Trump dominates among “moderate to liberal” Republicans. Cruz and Rubio have roughly comparable support from both men and women, while Trump is stronger among men, 30 to 24 percent.
On the Democrat side, Clinton increased her lead over Sanders to 60 percent vs. 30 percent, a significant boost over last month’s already formidable 53-35 lead. Clinton also polls slightly above all the Republican candidates in December, whereas she polled slightly behind them last month. However, Qunnipiac found Sanders polling better than Clinton against Trump, Cruz, and Carson, and roughly the same against Rubio.
Political cynics will be amused at Qunnipiac’s finding that both front-runners are viewed as untrustworthy by voters, with Clinton judged “not honest and trustworthy” by a 60-36 margin, and Trump by a nearly identical 59-35 split.