We have arrived at Donald Trump’s first real crisis on the campaign trail. In one word, it is “Iowa.”
In the latest Monmouth poll, Trump is now 14 points behind Ben Carson. One poll, in and of itself, is not a trend. But there are now five polls showing the same trend. Trump is now behind Carson.
Trump supporters cannot credibly think that suddenly the pollsters are all wrong. They have been relying on the very same pollsters for months to show Trump winning. If they are going to claim that suddenly the pollsters realize Trump is too credible and the pollsters must now sabotage him, the Trump supporters must then ask why the media continues to let Trump come on. He had a rather softball time of it with NBC yesterday. He continues to be allowed to call into television programs where other candidates are required to be on set.
No, live by the polls, die by the polls. Donald Trump has lost his lead in Iowa. It is, however, more serious than that.
First, historically, once a major candidate in Iowa has lost the lead, he never regains the lead. Donald Trump is, however, a once in a lifetime candidate. He should be able to overcome it. But Trump’s problem is in the underlying poll data.
Trump is less and less anyone’s second choice.
If you examine Carson’s supporters, you find a group of people, many of whom are evangelical, who were long ago put off by Trump’s braggadocios attitude. They wanted their own outsider, but they wanted the quiet Christian alternative. They went with Carson and those initial Carson supporters will not go to Trump.
Now in Iowa, Carson has taken votes from both Trump and Fiorina and these new Carson voters are signaling they will not go back to Trump.
In the Monmouth poll, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are increasingly people’s second choice. Trump, to be sure, garners more overall with combined first choice and second choice votes at 30% compared to Rubio and Cruz tied for 24%. But as Trump has trended downward, his second choice gains are noticeably smaller.
Rubio, for example, went from 4% to 10% on the first choice question and from 8% to 14% on the second choice question. Trump, on the other hand, fell from 23% to 18% on the first choice and only grew 2%, to 12% on the second choice question.
Quinnipiac asked this question: “Are there any of these candidates you would definitely not support for the Republican nomination for president?”
30% of voters overall said they would never vote for Trump, which was higher than Jeb Bush’s. But most damning for Trump is that 31% of evangelicals would never vote for him and 24% of very conservative voters would never vote for Trump. The former is higher than with Bush and the latter is only three points behind Bush.
Trump has lost Iowa. He has lost evangelicals, who are a core component of the Iowa Caucuses. According to press reports, Trump has yet to buy a voter file to even get people to caucuses in about 100 days. No candidate at this point who has ever lost a lead in Iowa has gotten it back. More and more of the core of conservative and evangelical voters in Iowa are turning from Trump.
So very shortly we should start hearing from Donald Trump how Iowa does not matter, which just means New Hampshire and South Carolina will matter more. In both, Trump is doing very well, with only one noticeable trend. The more polls focus on likely voters instead of registered voters, Trump’s margin goes down.