Yeah, listen: These polls are wonderfully fun, but if he had even a ghost of a chance at the nomination, last night’s threat to singlehandedly reelect Barack Obama surely exorcised it. (Why on earth would he admit that publicly, anyway?) So by all means, let’s continue to ooh and ahh at the Giuliani Effect while it lasts — the man gives good soundbite, and if nothing else, his surging polls are a nifty way to express dissatisfaction with the state of the GOP field — but I think we can stop planning the Trump inauguration now.
Nineteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents questioned in the poll say that as of now, they’d be most likely to support Trump for next year’s GOP presidential nomination. Trump says he’ll decide by June whether he runs for the White House. An equal amount say they’d back Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate says he’ll decide by later this year if he’ll make another bid for the White House.
Twelve percent say they’d support former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, who was the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, with 11 percent backing former Massachusetts Gov. and 2008 White House hopeful Mitt Romney and the same amount supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Seven percent say they are backing Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, another 2008 presidential candidate, with five percent supporting Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who enjoys strong backing from many in the Tea Party movement. Everyone else registers in the low single digits.
Trump jumped from 10 percent in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last month, with Romney dropping from 18 percent to 11 percent.
The poll’s real significance is in that last bit. I don’t know what’s scarier for Mitt — the idea that his support is so soft that it’ll melt from two weeks of the guy from “The Apprentice” talking about Obama’s birth certificate, or the possibility that his decline isn’t Trump-related at all and is apt to persist even when Donaldmania cools. CNN’s pollster notes that Romney’s support actually drops without Trump in the race, which points directly at the second theory, but I dunno. They are an awful lot alike in some ways…
Haley Barbour thinks this is mostly higher name recognition at work, which is true but tactful in how it omits the significance of Trump’s media Birther binge. The Donald is signaling as loudly as he can to the base that as nominee he’d attack Obama without fear of media disapproval, which earns him a “strong conservative” merit badge even though he’s, er, never really been a strong conservative. For a fascinating gloss on how the Birther stuff might be backfiring on him, though, read this post by Ben Smith on the damage done to Trump’s standing lately among black voters, who previously viewed him favorably. His cross-racial appeal would have been a political asset on the trail and catnip for a media starved for juicy horserace angles during the primary. So much for that.