Some have tried to label him a flip-flopper. Others have dismissed him as a joke. And some are holding out for an implosion.
But no matter how some Republicans are trying to drag Donald Trump down from atop the polls, it hasn’t worked (yet). Ten of the last 11 national polls have shown Donald Trump’s lead at double digits, and some are starting to ask seriously what it means for the real estate mogul’s nomination chances.
Of course, it’s still early in the election cycle. None of this is to say that Trump is likely to win the Republican nomination. Pundits point out that at this time in 2011, Rick Perry’s lead was giving way to a rising Herman Cain – neither of whom won even one state in the nomination process. And there are many reasons he would struggle in a general election. But outside groups like Jeb Bush’s Super PAC and the economic conservative group Club for Growth are recognizing Trump’s staying power and beginning to unload their dollars to topple him.
Here are some recent poll numbers that suggest that the real estate mogul isn’t just a passing phase:
1. Trump’s favorability ratings have turned 180 degrees. Right before Donald Trump announced his candidacy in mid-June, a Monmouth University poll showed only two in 10 Republicans had a positive view of the real estate mogul. By mid-July, it was 40 percent. In early August, it was 52 percent. Now, six in 10 Republicans have a favorable view of Donald Trump. Roughly three in 10 say they have a negative view. And these numbers hold up in early states. A Quinnipiac poll in Iowa last week found that 60 percent of Republicans there had a favorable view of Trump.
2. Two-thirds of GOP voters would be happy with Trump as the nominee. In a CNN/ORC poll last week, 67 percent of Republicans said they would be either “enthusiastic” or “satisfied” if Trump were the nominee. Only two in 10 say they would be “upset” if he were the nominee. Only Ben Carson generates roughly the same level of enthusiasm as Trump (43 percent say they would be “enthusiastic” vs. 40 percent who say the same of Trump). The next closest in enthusiasm? Marco Rubio with only 21 percent. On the flip side, 47 percent of Republican voters say they would be “dissatisfied” or “upset” if establishment favorite Jeb Bush becomes the nominee.
3. A majority of Republicans don’t see Trump’s temperament as a problem. While Donald Trump has been widely criticized for his bombast and insults, 52 percent of leaned Republican voters nationwide think that the real estate mogul has the right temperament to be president, according to Monday’s ABC News/Washington Post poll. The same number holds in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, where the same 52 percent of Republicans think he has the personality to be commander in chief, according to Quinnipiac last week. Still, 44 percent think he doesn’t have the personality to serve effectively, and almost six in 10 independents say his temperament does not belong in the White House, according to ABC/Post.
4. Republican voters are getting used to the idea. When they put on their pundit hats, Republican voters think Trump is for real. When asked who is most likely to win the GOP nomination, four in 10 said Trump was the best bet, according to a CNN/ORC poll out last week. That’s a change from when four in 10 placed their money on Jeb Bush in late July. Full disclosure: GOP voters haven’t had the clearest crystal ball in the past. At this time last cycle, four in 10 Republicans picked Rick Perry to win the nomination, vs. only 28 percent for eventual nominee Mitt Romney. Still, it shows that a plurality of GOP voters see Trump’s campaign as plausible.
5. Even if Republicans rallied around another candidate, Trump still beats almost everyone. Some pundits point out that the splintered field is likely contributing to Trump’s lead, while anti-Trump support is be spread diffusely among more than a dozen other candidates. But a Monmouth University poll in early September shows that, in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup between Trump and most other Republican candidates, Trump almost always garners majority support. He leads Carly Fiorina by 13 points, Marco Rubio by 14 points, Walker by 15 points, Jeb Bush by 19 points, and, finally, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Chris Christie by 33 points each. He’s in a dead heat with Ted Cruz. The only candidate who beats him? Ben Carson would lead the businessman by a wide 19 points in a hypothetical head-to-head.
6. A bare majority of Donald Trump’s supporters say they’ve made up their minds. A new CBS/NYT poll out on Tuesday shows that just more than half of voters who support Trump say they have locked in their votes. Obviously, a lot can happen to change that, and no one can really say they would never change their mind. 46 percent said they are leaving the door open to switching candidates. Still, Trump’s strongest competition at the moment is from fellow outsider neurosurgeon Ben Carson, but voters who say they have made up their minds are twice as likely to go for Trump.
7. Six in 10 Republicans say they agree with Trump on immigration. Even since Donald Trump called immigrants from Mexico “rapists” in his campaign announcement speech two months ago, immigration has been front and center in the 2016 conversation. Some are worried that Trump’s bombast will drive crucial Hispanic voters away from the Republican Party and damage rebranding efforts. But according to Monday’s new ABC/Post poll, six in 10 Republicans say they agree with Trump on immigration issues. So as long as immigration remains in the spotlight, it seems Donald Trump will remain too.
8. Frustration with government is climbing to new highs. Donald Trump and Ben Carson now account for roughly half of the support from Republican voters, largely due to their outsider status. Six in 10 Republicans in Monday’s new ABC/Post poll say they want a political outsider over someone with government experience. And they are angry at Washington, too. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll in Iowa from two weeks ago shows that three in four Iowa Republicans are frustrated with Republicans in Congress, with 54 percent “unsatisfied” and 21 percent “mad as hell.”