In every presidential race there are always surprises but the sustained popularity of Donald Trump in the Republican race has surprised even those who have been following politics for decades. We are only a couple of weeks away from the last Republican debate before primary voting starts about eight weeks from now, and Trump still has a big lead over every other candidate in the race.
His ability to avoid a large negative backlash from the voter base has been nothing short of amazing as he has repeatedly said and done things that no other candidate would dream of saying or doing. Each time he makes a statement that even the experts feel is sure to put him at the back of the pack and ultimately out of the race, the polls say otherwise indicating even a boost in his ratings at times.
This has left the Republican establishment and conventional candidates scrambling to find answers and a way to put Trump in his “rightful place”. However, up to this point the answers have been few and the results of efforts by other candidates to damage Trump’s campaign seem to be almost completely ineffective. At times, establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich seem to be in complete denial and have stated Trump has no chance of ultimately winning the nomination, but with each passing day they are becoming more nervous that perhaps they have miscalculated the situation.
Even seasoned political consultants that gave Trump little to no chance of success early in the race are now admitting that he has a real chance to actually win. Most have experienced political consultants, reporters and pundits have been waiting for the wave of anti-establishment support to lose steam and for the race to take a direction that is more conventional. However, the 2016 Presidential Race looks like it might have the makings of being something different from the normal Democrat establishment candidate versus the Republican establishment candidate.
In recent polls by the Washington Post and ABC News Corporation, Trump led all candidates with a commanding 32%, a full ten percentage points ahead of the next in line which is Ben Carson who settled for 22%. These results are very similar to what the results have been for the last several weeks, showing Trump with a lead of 10% and at times even more than that.
In spite of all the success Trump has had so far and his ability to avoid a big slide backwards, many experts are still not convinced. They continue to say it is still very early in the race and even polls at this point are very inaccurate. Their overall opinion is it is just too early to know one way or the other if the Trump campaign has real momentum and can actually get voters to check the box on the ballot come voting day.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have been making up a little ground in the last few weeks with each candidate moving a few points ahead of the other candidates besides Carson and Trump. Recently, Cruz has been polling in the 13%-15% range and Rubio has been touching just above 10% in some polls, leaving each with a long way to go if they are to have a real chance at taking the lead at some point.
Many point to Iowa as the final arbiter of how real the Trump campaign is, but a poll of Iowans in early November by CNN showed Trump with 39%, Carson came in at 22% and Cruz as well as Rubio were both under 15%.
With still two months remaining before the first vote is cast in the Republican primary, there is a long way to go. Trump has led the polls since early July but in Presidential politics it only takes a few hours and one wrong move to completely change the race. Many polls still show that less than 20% of Republican voters are certain about who they will vote for when they visit the voting booth eight weeks from now. This means that 80% of the votes are still up for grabs and we could still see a huge shift in the recent trends.
In fact, if this race holds true to most other primaries in the past, then we are likely to see a big change of some kind over the next few weeks. As voting day gets closer, voters tend to get more serious about whom they will actually vote for. This is when we will actually find out if Trump can “trump” the establishment and deliver on promises to bring real change to the Republican political arena.