A new Rasmussen poll finds Donald Trump holding on to a 7 point lead in the aftermath of the first Presidential debate. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Ben Carson experienced sizable bumps in the poll as well.
Trump seems to be weathering a weekend of controversies surrounding his criticism of questioning from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly during the debate. The conservative website RedState took the highly unusual step of disinviting Trump from its annual gathering as a result of Trump’s critique.
Despite RedState’s weighing in on the controversy, Trump continues to lead the Republican field with 17% of the vote. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are tied for second, with 10% support each. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Fiorina follow with 9% support. Carson and TX Sen. Ted Cruz follow closely with 8% and 7% respectively.
After these top 7, support for the rest of the field falls off dramatically. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, KY Sen. Rand Paul and OH Gov. John Kasich all earn just 4% support, essentially unchanged from before the debate. The rest of the field earns 1% or less.
Trump’s hold on the frontrunner spot defies conventional political logic in many ways. Since he announced his campaign, Trump was weathered blistering commentary from the media and political punditry. The media-driven controversies, whether over Sen. John McCain’s service record of Kelly’s questioning, have had minimal impact on his standing in the polls.
Trump, who has been a celebrity for decades, is a known quantity for most voters. Many of these controversies simply could be “baked into” his political support. His positioning as a blunt, straight-shooter has tapped into a deep well of voter frustration with the political class.
This frustration is real, as witnessed by Fiorina’s rapid rise in the polls. She wasn’t on the main stage for the debate Thursday, but received plaudits for dominating the debate “undercard” earlier in the evening. She has also based her campaign on being a political outsider with real business experience.
For weeks, the political class has been content in its assumption that Trump’s campaign would implode as a result of the candidate’s blunt talk.
That hasn’t happened, so enormous pressure is likely to be brought to bear on the candidates at the back of the pack to drop out. The political establishment will hope that Trump’s support has peaked and, with fewer candidates in the race, a clear anti-Trump can emerge.
It isn’t entirely clear that would happen, but it may be the only play the political establishment has. Despite enormous financial, institutional and media support, many of the establishment-favored candidates have faltered this year.
Their real problem, of course, isn’t really Trump. Their challenge is that the voting public, especially Republicans, are tired of politics as usual. The establishment doesn’t need fewer candidates. It needs a new script.