So we’ve got our first poll. And it looks like GOP party leaders and a lot of pundits are in for a bit of a surprise since at least as of yesterday Donald Trump appears to have paid zero price for his performance at the GOP debate or for his continuing antics in the two days after.
But I want to mention a few things about the poll. It is an online poll, but one by two very sophisticated and capable public opinion shops. Internet polls still don’t have the track record of phone call based surveys. But for a point of reference they have stacked up quite well against phone polls in the last two election cycles. So I do not think there’s any reason to question the poll based on methodology, unless and until we have other soundings which tell a dramatically different story.
What did strike me about this poll was the numbers other than Trump’s. Fiorina and Ben Carson are in the top five. And Ted Cruz is in second place with 13% support after being something like campaign roadkill. These are surprising numbers. Yet the same outfit’s poll from a week ago was broadly in line with what other pollsters have found in recent weeks. So I can see no reason to think this pollster is an outlier.
We can’t underestimate the effect of the first event, broadcast to a large audience, showing all the candidates – or at least the top ten – on a stage together. That moves opinions.
It’s possible that this poll missed some of the day two disgust with Trump’s “blood” comments. And now he’ll start to fall. But I think a different trajectory is more likely. Unless other polls come out soon showing a dramatically different picture, this poll will energize Trump and his supporters and wrong foot his attackers. At least it will blunt the weekend talk about Trump’s campaign being on the ropes. But I think it will do more than that, cementing Trump’s thoroughly bizarre mantle as the anti-establishment, ‘I won’t play by the rules’ candidate.