June 25, 2015 — Despite universal media condemnation and being the butt of almost every joke on the late night TV circuit after officially launching his presidential campaign last week, international businessman Donald Trump has already moved into second place according to a new poll of New Hampshire Republican voters.
The Suffolk University Political Research Center (June 18-22; 500 highly to moderately likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters) finds Trump jumping from the low single-digits to moving ahead of every opponent but one, and trails former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by just three points.
Obviously, some members of the New Hampshire electorate do find Trump’s brash and blunt style attractive. He has been making appearances throughout the state, and is clearly having at least a modicum of success.
The fact that he could make such a quick move also reveals extreme fluidity within the massive field of Republican candidates. It is important to remember that, among the unwieldy group of almost 20 contenders, no candidate even touches 15 percent. Additionally, even individuals receiving one and zero votes are still within 15 points of topping the field.
The actual results post Bush at only 14 percent, with Trump next at 11 percent and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in maybe his worst performance of the election cycle, dropping to only eight percent. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is next with seven percent, and Dr. Ben Carson registers six percent. The remaining 14 candidates post five percent or less.
This survey is interesting for other reasons in addition to the Trump performance. It is the first poll that tested 19 candidates, and included former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and ex-Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich. The two have not been previously mentioned on a public survey questionnaire. Furthermore, former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, who is an announced candidate but will unlikely qualify for the ballot in most states, was also part of this Suffolk University poll. Gilmore, who has made no formal announcement but makes regular campaign-style trips to New Hampshire, is likely to run; Ehrlich is not.
Though these three were included, the aggregate number of individuals saying they would vote for any one of the trio was exactly one person. On the “second choice” question, Gilmore, Ehrlich, and Everson did slightly better.
The Suffolk poll also queried the polling sample about whether or not each individual candidate should be invited to participate in televised debates, a controversy in New Hampshire since the Manchester Union Leader newspaper has been attacking Fox News for trying to limit participation and even threatening to hold a competing debate on the same day as the first forum (Aug. 15). The Union Leader’s purpose for promoting such action is to highlight that some candidates are barred from speaking.
Here, 16 of the 19 scored in the “include” category, with only Ehrlich (31 percent), Everson (30 percent), and Gilmore (28 percent) failing to reach a majority of positive responses.
It is unlikely that Trump will maintain a presence near the top of the polling charts, but this poll underscores that the small, early states are highly unpredictable and can produce surprising results. Should the present pattern continue through the beginning of next year, this tightly bunched group of candidates will undoubtedly lead to a tight finish with no candidate coming close to securing a majority of the nominating delegate votes.