June 17, 2015 — Just as former Florida governor and presidential son and brother Jeb Bush formally declared his national candidacy, several new polls were released all pointing to Republicans’ having no clear leader. The surveys provide further evidence that the underpinnings for a brokered convention continue to solidify.
Monmouth University (June 11-14; 1,002 adults; 351 likely Republican voters) released the results of their national poll, while the Morning Consult group (weekly surveying equaling 2,000 respondents; combination of live phone interviews and online responses) simultaneously tested the Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Republican electorates.
National polls, particularly in nomination contests, are not particularly useful because the contests are state-based. But, they can be a good momentum indicator. In this instance, Monmouth, using a very small 351-person sample segment, finds Dr. Ben Carson leading the group of 16 candidates but with just 11 percent preference.
Five candidates are within three points. Following Carson are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (10 percent), Floridians Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (nine percent), and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (eight percent). In the next tier are senators Rand Paul (KY) and Ted Cruz (TX) at six and five percent, respectively, just ahead of Gov. Chris Christie (NJ) and former Gov. Rick Perry (TX) who tie at four percent.
All other candidates: former Sen. Rick Santorum, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), businessman Donald Trump, Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA), Gov. John Kasich (OH), and ex-Gov. George Pataki (NY) all register between three and less than one percent, in order.
But, the key state studies tell a different story. In Iowa, the Morning Consult group finds, as all other pollsters have, that Gov. Walker leads the field with a relatively substantial eight-point lead (18-10 percent), yet still can’t get to 20 percent. In a three-way tie for second position are Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul.
The group’s New Hampshire poll finds Bush placing first, but with only 14 percent support. Here, Gov. Walker and Sen. Paul take second and third positions, respectively (10 and nine percent).
But, the South Carolina results tell an entirely different story. Playing the delegate game, it is home state Sen. Graham topping the field, like Bush, with 14 percent support. Dr. Carson places second with 12 percent, and Bush and Walker follow closely behind with 11 and 10 percent.
Though Sen. Rubio did not finish at the top in any of the state polls, he was the only candidate who placed in the top three in every place as a second choice.
Once again we see an entirely bunched field where, in the national poll, 16 candidates all fall within 11 points. The closeness of the early contest is attracting so many candidates because each can see a path to victory for him or herself. It is entirely possible to make up an 11-point deficit in the course of a campaign, meaning everyone can see themselves having a legitimate chance of catching fire and catapulting to the top.
Should the pattern detected in the early states continue, where each of the first four voting venues (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina) produce a different winner, and no candidate has a clear advantage heading into the key Winner-Take-All states of Florida and probably Ohio (and the latter two also produce different first place finishers), then going to a brokered convention becomes all the more probable.
It is hard to say exactly how long the present sequence will continue, but there appears to be no indication that any candidate will soon break away from the ever-growing pack of contenders.