Donald Trump is still the Republican front-runner nationally and in the key early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
But the real-estate mogul’s infatuation with his own poll numbers may be getting a lot more complicated.
In New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, Trump has fallen sharply over the past month, according to a new poll released Sunday. The poll, from NBC, showed Trump losing 7 points of support from Granite State Republican voters over the past month.
The 21% still puts him ahead of his closest competitor in the state, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who jumped to second with 16%. But Trump’s lead has narrowed significantly since August, when he was ahead of the next-closest competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), by 16 points.
And in NBC’s Iowa survey, Trump was ahead of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson by 5 points, leading 24% to 19%. Trump had 29% support in NBC’s previous survey of Iowa last month, and he led Carson by 7 points.
If the levelling-off becomes a trend, it could serve as a troubling narrative itself for the Trump campaign. The real-estate mogul has often brought up his strong poll numbers during interviews and campaign rallies. He has slammed various media reports on the notion that his support is at all sliding since the last Republican presidential debate.
“It’s dishonest reporting and — let me change it — it’s knowingly dishonest,” Trump told Business Insider last month. “Because the polls speak for themselves. I’m up. Check out Zogby. Check out Reuters — the Reuters — what do they call that? The Reuters average. Even The Huffington Post. Check all of them.”
When asked if that strategy could backfire if he drops, Trump didn’t have an answer — and again cited his favourable poll standings.
“I can’t tell you,” Trump said. “My numbers have just gone up. I just can’t tell you.”
Despite the slight dip in Trump’s poll numbers, he remains the clear front-runner. He leads nationally with 25% support among likely Republican voters, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. In that poll, he also saw the most support across almost every notable constituency, save for college graduates and frequent church-goers.
No Republican candidate has been able to maintain the consistent lead in the polls for as long as Trump — particularly in both New Hampshire and Iowa, important early nominating states with fairly different constituencies.
But his competitors have also shown a resiliency. And as voters begin to pay closer attention to the race, many experts predict voters could move away from Trump, a candidate who has sky-high name recognition but lingers in the middle of the pack as to whom GOP voters view most favourably.
Notably, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) focus on New Hampshire may be starting to pay off, according to the NBC survey. He has climbed 2 points to 10% support since voters were last surveyed. And he’s ahead of Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), whose rising support in early polls and high favourable ratings have made him an increasingly viable establishment challenger to Bush.
Rising poll numbers in New Hampshire could help Bush’s campaign power through a rocky season. Nationally, Bush has seen his support crater recently — the Pew poll, for example, found that only 4% of Republicans supported him.
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