Donald Trump continues to lead the race for the GOP nomination with 27% support, according to a new CBS poll released Sunday. His support is unchanged since early September.
But some underlying trends are favoring Trump. Over 70% of Republican primary voters now say they would support Trump if he won the nomination. His favorable ratings among all Republicans are now higher than both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, widely seen as the choices of the GOP establishment.
Trump is also seen by Republicans as the most likely candidate to win next November. He beats both Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Jeb Bush on this score by more than a 3-1 margin.
In the race, Ben Carson is second and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has moved into 3rd place. Bush has faded into a tie for 5th place.
The four candidates who have built their campaigns running against the Washington Republican establishment, Trump, Carson, Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz, together earn 63% of Republican primary voters. Almost half of Republicans support either Trump or Carson, neither of whom has ever run for elected office before.
The surge in Republican support for anti-establishment candidates runs deeper than the individual candidates, though. Only 8% of Republican believe the “right experience” is the most important quality in a candidate. Worse for the more career-minded politicians, just 10% of Republicans believe “politics and government” is the best experience for the next President. More than half, 55%, want a nominee with experience in “business and the private sector.”
For most of the summer, national Republicans consoled themselves that the Trump phenomenon was a boomlet born out of voter frustration that would quickly fade. Not only has Trump’s support held steady, though, voters seem to have already moved into accepting him as a very credible candidate.
For Republicans, the two most important issues this election are the economy and immigration. On the economy, 83% of Republicans are confident in Trump’s ability to handle the issue. On illegal immigration, 74% of Republicans are confident in Trump.
It is likely that these two issues, and the voters’ apparent trust in Trump on them, will prove the biggest hurdle of establishment Republicans. Almost one-in-five Republicans list immigration as the biggest issue in the campaign. It is unlikely amnesty is at the top of these voters’ list of priorities.
In early September, Bush was tied for 3rd place among GOP voters nationally. At the end of August, Bush was in 2nd place. In fact, Bush has lost more than half his support in the last 7 weeks. Even worse, though, Bush’s personal favorable ratings have dropped 11 points over the same period.
Bush isn’t getting crowded out of the nomination fight by other candidates. Bush is losing support he already had. He is now the only Republican candidate whose unfavorable ratings eclipse their favorable rating among likely primary voters.