Since the dramatic escalator ride that marked Donald Trump’s official entrance into the 2016 presidential contest in June, the real estate mogul has broken just about every strategy in the campaign rule book and defied political logic on his way to dominate both the conversation and the polls in the Republican presidential primary.
Trump’s reign has become the new normal and the Republican field has been forced to adjust accordingly.
While many candidates have gone head to head with Trump in an apparent attempt to draw attention to their own campaigns, others have taken the approach of channeling their own inner Trump, while still others have sought to lay low and ride out the summer under the radar.
An ABC News analysis of the various strategies used by other candidates in coping with Trump’s rise and how the candidates poll numbers have fared both nationally (comparing Monmouth University’s June 15 and Sept. 3 polls) and in Iowa (comparing the Des Moines Register’s May 30 and Aug. 29 polls) indicate that the political heatwave that is Donald Trump has rendered more clear losers than it has winners.
Perhaps no one has wilted more under the summer of Trump than Scott Walker.
Less than two months after entering the presidential contest as the Iowa frontrunner, Walker has seen his poll numbers drop following a lackluster performance in the first Republican debate that was exaggerated by Trump's larger-than-life stage presence.
In June, Walker was the comfortable frontrunner in a Des Moines Register poll that placed him at 17 percent. But by the end of August, Walker fell 10 points to land at 7 percent. His national poll numbers have also dropped significantly. The latest Monmouth University poll had him at 3 percent, down 7 points from 10 percent in mid-June.
Since losing his once-solid footing in the polls, Walker has been talking up his own outsider image and has sought to connect with the voters who have flocked to Trump expressing shared frustration with Washington. He has even introduced some Trump-like language into his rhetoric, now with a new promise to “wreak havoc” on Washington if he’s elected president.
Walker has also stumbled in clearly articulating his established positions on immigration after Trump rolled out his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border and end birthright citizenship. Walker at first seemed to echo Trump in expressing support for ending birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants during an impromptu interview with MSNBC at the Iowa State Fair last month. He then walked the position back over the course of the week -- taking a total of three positions –- before concluding to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that “no,” he isn’t calling for a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship.
While Walker has fallen short in his strategy of partially embracing Trump's rise, those who have spent their summer picking fights with the frontrunner have also failed to break through.
Perry has slammed Trump as a “cancer” to conservativism, Graham has threatened that he’d “beat his brains out,” and Paul has mocked him as a “fake conservative.”
But their attacks have been unanimously ineffective in bring attention to their own candidacies.
Nationally, Paul had been at 6 percent and is now at 2 percent. Perry had been at 4 percent and is now at 1 percent. Graham now registers at 0 percent. In Iowa, Paul has lost the most ground of the three in falling from 10 to 4 percent, while Perry and Graham have not broken out of in the low single digits.
Perry’s campaign is now in such a state of disrepair the former Texas governor has no paid staff left in New Hampshire.
Jeb Bush has lost more than he’s gained during the summer of Trump.
After several national polls ranked Bush as the national frontrunner at the time of his June entry onto the campaign stage, his numbers have dropped into the single digits. According to the Monmouth University poll used in this analysis, Bush has stayed relatively steady nationally. In Iowa, Bush had been at 9 percent and is now at 6 percent.
While his campaign at first sat back and watched Trump’s rise as a problem for other candidates, the former frontrunner has now begun fighting back after Trump lobbed insult after insult in his direction. Among the digs, Trump recently labeled him a “low-energy person” and previously re-tweeted someone who mocked Bush’s Mexican-American wife Columba for being a Mexican immigrant.
The newly aggressive Bush has come out this week to label Bush a “germaphobe” with an online quiz and told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that Trump is “trying to insult his way into the presidency.”
The two are now locked in a back-and-forth sparring match after Trump criticized Bush for speaking in Spanish during a media gaggle this week, suggesting that he “should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.” In response, Bush told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that immigration and the multilingualism that comes with it contributes to the “vitality” of the country.
Aside from Donald Trump himself, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina have benefited the most under the Trump summer sun.
Similar to Trump in that they are both outsider candidates who are not career politicians, the polling numbers demonstrate that Carson and Fiorina are tapping into the same anti-establishment vein as Trump within the GOP electorate. Nationally, Carson has risen 7 points during the summer and now comes in at second place behind Trump with 18 percent. Fiorina is still far behind nationally. She had been at 2 percent and is now at 4 percent. And in Iowa, Carson has jumped 8 points from 10 percent to 18 and Fiorina had been at 2 percent and is now at 5. (Another poll not used in this analysis has Carson tied with Trump in Iowa).
While Carson has been able to largely avoid engaging on the subject of Trump up to this point, Fiorina has been careful not to pick fights with Trump while still pushing back when he attacked her record at Hewlett-Packard. “She got fired, she did a terrible job at HP,” Trump said of Fiorina. And in a subdued rebuttal, Fiorina said that “Donald Trump’s gone after just about everybody. He’s entitled to, obviously.”
Ted Cruz is also a winner from the Trump summer.
Cruz has remained in the high single-digits both nationally and in Iowa. Since June, Cruz has remained in the fray, now at 8 percent nationally and 9 percent in the Hawkeye state.
Cruz has taken an approach of openly embracing Trump and has had success in doing so while avoiding harmful stumbles.
“I think people are ticked off at Washington, and they want someone who will stand up to Washington, who will tell the truth, and I think that’s why he’s attracted the early support he has,” Cruz said of Trump while speaking on the conservative Hugh Hewitt radio show earlier this week.
As an example of just how far Cruz has gone to embrace Trump, the two met at the Trump Tower this summer and Cruz has invited Trump to join him at a rally to oppose the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill next week. Trump has accepted that invitation.
The outcome of the summer for Marco Rubio is neither a clear loss or win.
While he has fallen from 9 percent to 5 nationally, his modest Iowa polling numbers remain unchanged at 6 percent. And despite losing some ground in national polls, he hasn’t had to endure the same negative headlines as Bush and Walker, who have lost former frontrunner titles as a result of Trump’s rise.
In dealing with Trump, Rubio has taken a strategy of avoidance and remained unprovoked by personal insult, even after Trump called him a “terrible person.”
“If I comment on everything he says, I mean -- my whole campaign will be consumed by it. That’s all I’ll do all day,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd in early August.
If Rubio’s low-profile strategy pays off, 2016 wouldn’t be his first time as a dark horse candidate. When he first ran for the Senate in 2010, Rubio was up against Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor who had a 70% approval rating. Rubio went on to win that election with 49% of the vote.
ABC News' Ines De La Cuetara, Ryan Struyk, Candace Smith, Katherine Faulders and Jessica Hopper contributed to this report.