Several 2016 presidential nomination polls were released this week and all show one thing in particular: Republican hopeful Donald Trump’s lead over his opponents has narrowed since the second debate. But does the gap shrinkage actually mean anything with regard to the field of candidates — besides, of course, the rise of businesswoman Carly Fiorina and famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson? Is this a sign of the inevitable fall of the early polling frontrunner? Or are we just witnessing the usual GOP electorate restlessness that comes with the territory of a drawn-out pre-primary season?
A Fox News poll released September 23 indicated that businessman Donald Trump, a frontrunner in the GOP presidential nomination polls since mid-July, no longer has the commanding lead he enjoyed just a few weeks ago. In fact, after the GOP’s second debate on CNN, the polarizing candidate has watched his lead shrink. It should be pointed out, however, that Trump’s numbers barely declined, while his two main competitors, Fiorina and Carson, apparently pulled voters from other camps and those who were previously undecided.
So what’s the difference? Not much, as it turns out.
Trump, according to Real Clear Politics polling data, has polled in the 20s in most polls since the end of July, rising here and there but maintaining about a 25 percent posting — with a brief jump into the 30s in early September — since then. Regardless of what he has said or how many people and/or demographics he has offended, his numbers have remained rather steady for two months. This is because his core support. And it is doubtful he will ever get more than 40 percent of the vote unless he’s one of the last few standing at the end of Primary Season.
Nate Silver, the statistics expert, told CNN that history shows that the early frontrunners (like Texas governor Rick Perry in 2011) never reach the nominating conventions as the frontrunners, nor do they get the nominations. He notes that Donald Trump — and even Ben Carson — has about a 5 percent chance of getting the nomination. As for his popularity, Silver points to name recognition, people actually identifying with the things he says (like with immigration), and the “bandwagon effect,” but in the end, he will likely only get about 20 percent of the GOP vote.
As for those that are rising in the polls as would-be “challengers,” like Carly Fiorna and Ben Carson, a look at the polling data shows that their numbers aren’t so much as taking from Trump’s points (perhaps a few) as they are from other candidates and the undecided. Regardless, as with the Fox News poll, Trump still maintains an 8-point lead over second-place Carson. In short, the newcomers challenging Trump at present seem to simply represent a shifting of votes that have little effect on Trump’s numbers at all.
So is Trump slipping? Perhaps a little. But it is too early to tell. One thing is certain, though: He still has a sizable lead over even the closest challengers. The question now is: Can he maintain that lead, defy history and go on to win the Republican presidential nomination?