Former President Donald Trump is an election man. He loves his polls — partly because he's crushing his GOP presidential primary opponents, well, all of them, and partly because, for better or worse, they're giving him an all-around Give something to create a story.
Such was the case in 2016, when he trailed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the months before the presidential election, yet used his underdog status to effectively mobilize his supporters to rally to his side. . Trump took over the White House and the rest, as they say, is history.
The strange Bradley effect – the phenomenon in which voters tell pollsters exactly what they think they want to hear – proved true. Named after Tom Bradley, the former mayor of Los Angeles who surprisingly lost the California governor's race in 1982 despite polls placing him easily ahead, researchers suspect that respondents are sometimes not always accurate. Do not answer. In Bradley's case, the leading theory is that voters did not want to appear racist to pollsters by not supporting a black candidate. But in Trump's position, he would be embarrassed to admit that he supported a reality TV star — a populist billionaire with no governing, military, or public service experience.
Fast forward seven years, and the twice-impeached former president, who faces 91 criminal charges in four indictments, is by far the leader of the stampede of Republican candidates vying for the GOP nomination. In fact, some polls show the former president leading his primary opponents by more than 50 percentage points, even as he is accused of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election and inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.
"Great turnout!!!" he posted on his social media site on Thursday.
However, could it be that the same faulty polling that propelled Trump to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016 is now spoiling his comeback trip? Are his once staunch supporters – or at least some of them – perhaps masking their doubts, pledging their support, while also watching with a wary eye what many within them believe is democracy? Feel guilty for weakening?
"I think there's some truth to it," says Adam Geller, a longtime Republican strategist and pollster and founder and CEO of polling and political research firm National Research Inc.
“It's his moderate supporters who are probably reporting as Trump voters in a poll, but may very well be looking around, getting a little nervous, a little less comfortable as things develop. Have been. All the enthusiastic supporters are still wearing MAGA hats and holding signs on their front lawns. But then there's also that other layer that can be removed, which is who a poll is reporting as a Trump voter. But some of them are beginning to have doubts.”
"It's hard to measure, but I believe there's something to it."
At least one of Trump's primary opponents sees some evidence of that in the latest polling from New Hampshire.
An internal poll by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's presidential campaign shows that nearly 3 in 4 Trump supporters in New Hampshire say they are likely to change their mind between now and the primary election. And that's exemplified in New Hampshire, a state where Christie has practically become a resident based on how often he's campaigning there. In 2016, 50% of Granite State Republicans said they made their decision in the three days before the primary, and 20% of them made their decision on primary day.
"That's why I'm not concerned about where the elections are now," Christie said. told reporters earlier this week. “When you look at these surveys, they are fine for today. But the election is not today.”
Additionally, he said, the last three GOP winners of the Iowa caucuses were not the same candidates who were leading the polls at Thanksgiving.
Editorial cartoon on Donald Trump
Indeed, Mitt Romney was the front-runner in 2007, but former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the caucuses in late November despite only 4% of the vote. In 2011, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was leading the group, but former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who was polling at 3% around Thanksgiving time, won. And in 2015, Ben Carson was 10 points ahead of Trump, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz won – even though he had received about 7% of the vote just 50 days before the contest.
“What we've seen in those three examples in Iowa," Christie said, "an early state that acts very similar to New Hampshire in terms of late decision-making, you can see that they really made late decisions. You have three guys who were in the single digits at Thanksgiving who ultimately won the Iowa caucuses.
Christie, whose strategy has been to run a no-holds-barred, combative anti-Trump campaign, has not strengthened the non-MAGA Republican voting base as he had planned. According to surveys, he is currently in fourth place behind Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. But as long as his campaign's polling shows signs of slowing down, he's not going to back down.
“We feel really good about where we are,” he said. “We're not going to play this game of process stories and which donor am I meeting with and which donor am I getting a check from.” Is. We have a lot of money to compete with. I'm playing for the voters of New Hampshire. They are the ones who take the decisions.”
A handful of signs reinforce Christie's theory that Trump's support may be much softer than the polls suggest — though they're not necessarily positive for Christie's campaign. One is that the area is shrinking. With South Carolina Senator Tim Scott out last week and no way forward for entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, it's down to three rivals pursuing the former president. And while Trump's legal woes haven't yet made a dent in his support, they introduce potentially troubling fatigue to voters, especially those in Georgia, where the onus is on them to overturn the 2020 election results. Has been accused of attempting.
Over the summer, former President George W. Bush, co-founder of the centrist group No Labels, Mark McKinnon, chief media strategist during the presidential bids of Bush and Senator John McCain, wrote Regarding Trump's idea of "ghost voters" – that is, and he describes, "voters who appear to be for Trump but actually will disappear by the Iowa caucuses".
"In 2016, we experienced the phenomenon of silent Trump voters who were secretly for Trump but feared being ostracized if they said so publicly," he wrote. “This cycle, we may have exactly the opposite: Republican voters who are afraid to say they are for Trump publicly and yet quietly accept that he will likely lose the general election. These are Trump's ghost voters. It appears that they are present there... but they are equally likely to disappear in the election fog.
Whit Ayers, founder and president of North Star Opinion Research and longtime GOP political consultant, says the key to understanding Trump voting is to recognize the role that three factions of the Republican Party are playing today: the so-called "Never Trumpers, " who are between 10% and 12% of the party, "Always Trumpers", who are about 35%, and "Probably Trumpers", who represent the majority of the GOP.
“The majority of the party is probably Trump,” Ayres says. “They voted for Trump twice and they'll vote for him again against Joe Biden, but they're willing to consider other candidates because or “So they think Trump carries too much baggage or he might have trouble winning next year.”
"The question is," he says, "whether one of the other alternative candidates can capture and consolidate that potential Trump vote. To the extent that they haven't done so, some of it will go toward Trump, But this can be removed with the right alternative candidate or the right campaign.
For example, the latest polling in the New Hampshire primary shows Trump has the support of 42% of likely voters, followed by Haley at 20%, Christie at 14%, DeSantis at 9% and Ramaswamy at 8% . The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center from November 9-14, supports the idea that if a candidate were able to consolidate support, it would be enough to defeat Trump outright – even by a margin. Probably without the need to remove Trumpers. A separate New Hampshire primary poll conducted November 9–14 by Monmouth University and The Washington Post shows similar results.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, several polls show what's likely to happen over the next 50 days in New Hampshire, including the latest by Civic conducted Nov. 10-15: Trump leads with 54% support from likely voters. He is followed by DeSantis at 18%, Haley at 12%, Ramaswamy at 6% and Christie at 3%.
The problem is that, at least as of today, no candidate has been able to effectively dismantle that support. Haley, who is energized and fresh from funding support from the Koch network and high praise from JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, has a message that is perhaps most likely to drive Trumpers into her orbit, Ayers says — essentially. , that Trump was the right president for the moment and he has done some good things, but now it is time to pass the torch to a new generation. DeSantis appears to be taking a flat approach, and the extent of Christie's anti-Trump message appears to make it nearly impossible for him to muster enough support.
“For those people, criticizing Trump is like criticizing Jesus in a rural evangelical church. Criticize as much as you want, it will not affect the reputation of Jesus, but it will tarnish the reputation of the person who criticizes him,'' he says. "You can't argue that Trump is unfit for office and hope you'll convince any of them because they voted for him twice and they don't want to admit that they voted for someone like that." Who has voted is ineligible for office."
As he has done with the first three GOP primary debates, Trump announced this week that he plans to skip the fourth debate, scheduled for next week in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Instead, he's scheduled to host a closed-door fundraiser in Florida. Christie says he hopes his primary opponent will join him in sharply criticizing Trump.
“The cake is not baked. "There's still a lot of room for movement," says Geller. "And even though it feels like it's just around the corner, there's still a lot of time left where all the candidates will be working as hard as they can to persuade and inspire."