In case anyone was still in doubt, entrepreneur and secret key to defeating ISIS Donald Trump's candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination is now as serious as a heart attack that doesn't get jokes. Despite a rocket ride to the top of a slew of recent polls (which I predicted from the start), the political press continues to tell itself that Trump can't possibly sustain the level of support he now enjoys in an enormous and flat Republican field. Polling whiz Nate Silver added his voice to the naysayers this week:
But the polling points to another, less sexy story: First, Republican voters don’t rate Trump as all that conservative, and second, he’s actually polling about equally well among all sections of the GOP. In Trump speak, this means he is loved universally; in reality, the broad, shallow nature of Trump’s support suggests it’s due mostly to near-universal name recognition, thanks in part to being in the news more often than the news anchors.
Now, I'm no Sabrmetric wunderkind, but the way I see it, Silver is using data from a tiny sample of dodgy polls to support his conclusions. He cites an "average" of polls showing Trump's unremarkable 19% support among "very conservative" voters, but he's averaging two polls. One has Trump at 10% with very conservative voters, but the other has him at 27%. Any conclusion you could draw from a sample like that would be lower in confidence than a Cubs fan pre-ordering World Series tickets.
Silver's premise also suffers from a belief that conservative bona fides are determinative, normally a safe assumption in a Republican primary. One way to test that premise, and the one clear chance that Republicans had to blunt The Donald's momentum, would be the entry into the race of a high-profile candidate who is considered very conservative, and who could shoot past Trump in the polls.
Enter Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who announced his presidential bid Monday by spraying red meat like a woodchipper at the end of a cow conga line. None of the recent Trump-dominated polls have taken Walker's announcement, and attendant polling bump, into account. If Silver's right, then you would expect Scott Walker's announcement to at least put a dent in Trump, and maybe put Walker into a slight lead.
In the latest Fox News poll, the first national poll taken since Walker's announcement on Monday, Governor Walker did, indeed, achieve a six-point bump from the previous poll, clocking in at second with 15%. In that same poll, however, Trump more than quadrupled his support since the beginning of June, and now leads the entire field with 18%. True to Silver's analysis, Trump's support among conservatives essentially mirrors his overall support, at 17%, while his support jumps to 24% among white men, and 29% among those making $50,000.00 a year or less.
The poll also shows that without Trump in the race, Walker still doesn't take the top spot, which the goes to Jeb Bush, who scored lower with conservatives in Silver's analysis than Trump did. Trump's lead increases when Walker and Jeb are factored out. At least at this stage, it would appear that there's something more important to Republican voters than conservative purity.
Now that Trump has maintained his lead despite the Walker bump, there's little to slow him down between now and the first debate, which is just weeks away. Unless these other candidates toughen up real quick, that debate will resemble a cage fight between an ED-209 and a litter of puppies. That could have Trump pulling into a truly worrisome lead, and putting his rivals into a panicked frenzy. The fact is that 70% of Republican voters agree with Trump about Mexico, and his rivals need to figure out a way to do more than just whine about his tone while they agree with him on the substance.