Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) appears to be an unlikely, indirect beneficiary of real-estate magnate Donald Trump’s surprisingly thunderous presidential campaign.
Now, most national and state surveys place Trump either in first or second.
This rise appears to have come at the expense of several other Republican candidates. For example, a Monmouth University Poll on Monday found Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) at 7%, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) at 6%, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 6%. All three lost support compared to the previous month.
But Bush does not appear to be losing voters, despite the fact that Trump has repeatedly blasted Bush on the campaign trail and on social media. He has mostly held steady in polls as the Republican frontrunner.
Indeed, Bush led Trump 15% to 12% in the Monmouth University survey. He had less support — 9% — when the pollster surveyed the field last month.
In a Reuters-Ipsos poll released over the weekend, Bush led Trump by a negligible 16.1% to 15.8%, with the other candidates further back. But the Reuters poll further showed that when voters were given a choice between just Bush, Trump, or Rubio, the former Florida governor was supported by 42% of the GOP respondents, compared to 28% for Trump and 20% for Rubio.
Other polls have given the edge to Trump. A Suffolk University/USA Today survey published Tuesday showed Trump at 17%, with Bush three points behind. In an Economist/YouGov poll released last Thursday, Trump held 15% of the Republican vote, with Bush at 11%.
It’s important to take these early polls with a grain of salt because the first votes aren’t cast in the GOP primary until next year — and because these polls measure the Republican field nationally, not state by state.
As many observers have noted, the 2012 Republican primary featured multiple candidates who surged in the polls only to ultimately flame out, including then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) and business executive Herman Cain.
However, in a crowded field of outspoken candidates, it’s possible that Bush’s various advantages — such as his name recognition, relatively moderate approach to the immigration debate, and fundraising — could help him stand out from the pack.
Vox’s Andrew Prokop argued Tuesday that that Bush’s national profile, boosted by two recent presidents in his immediate family, means he does not need the constant media attention that Trump is sucking up. Some of Bush’s lesser-known rivals may not be so lucky.
“Every minute that media outlets cover Trump controversies is another minute that all of Bush’s more dangerous rivals are excluded from the spotlight,” Prokop wrote. “The GOP field is so crowded right now, with 15 candidates and two more expected to jump in soon, that the key challenge most contenders face is simply getting anyone to pay attention to them. Bush, the default choice who also benefits from name recognition, doesn’t face that problem. But everyone hoping to dislodge him does.”
For his part, Trump isn’t surprised by his own success in the polls. However, he says he is baffled by Bush’s performance.
“The poll just came out and I’m tied with Jeb Bush,” Trump said at a Saturday campaign rally. “And I said, ‘Oh that’s too bad. How could I be tied with this guy? He’s terrible. He’s terrible.’ He’s weak on immigration.”
“I don’t see him as a factor,” Trump added. “Jeb Bush. I don’t get it.”
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