Republican donors, presidential candidates, and media pundits are all asking the same question: Is there anything at all that could knock Donald Trump off the top of the polls?
According to a new poll from NBC/Survey Monkey, Trump’s popularity continues to dominate the Republican field in the wake of the first debates. With 23 percent of Republican primary voters throwing their support behind the billionaire, it would appear that Trump’s controversial feud with Megyn Kelly has done little or no damage to his campaign.
It was the debate moment that everyone was talking about. Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his history of demeaning women with terms like “fat pig.” Trump responded casually: “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” he said before launching into a rant about political correctness. The exchange alone would have dominated the Sunday shows, but Trump exacerbated the event the next day. When he told a CNN anchor that Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes…blood coming out of her wherever,” a collective groan shuddered throughout the RNC. Surely this time, Trump had gone too far.
But if this poll – taken after the comment had been televised but before the media ran it through an endless cycle for the next two days – is any indication, there may be no such thing as “too far” when it comes to Trump. Each controversy appears to fuel his campaign, bumping him in the polls.
Trump may have a firm grip on first place, but the poll shows that the debate had a significant effect on the overall Republican standings. The big winner was Ted Cruz. The Texas senator added another 7 percent to his total, putting him in second place. Former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson also got a bump of 3 percent, enough to take third. In fourth was the night’s biggest shocker – the unexpected emergence of Carly Fiorina. Having been written off as a second-tier candidate, the former HP head honcho gained 6 points from her 5:00 debate performance. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker both lost ground, taking sixth and seventh place respectively.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. This Republican primary is like nothing we’ve seen. Trump’s shocking candidacy has thrown the entire election into uncertainty. Will he flame out? Will he finally say something that sends his supporters into the Cruz camp? Or will he march straight to the convention next year to take the nomination?
Whatever happens, conservatives who dreaded the predictable Bush vs Clinton general election have to be juiced. Say what you will about this election, it’s anything but predictable. And if Bernie Sanders can turn his populist campaign into something with national appeal, it might get more interesting yet.