Here we go: Trump leads GOP field nationally with 17% in new USA Today poll

Who could have guessed that today’s nuclear deal wouldn’t be the strongest omen of the apocalypse?

Good news for Trump, great news for Jeb.

In the nationwide survey, Trump leads at 17% and former Florida governor Jeb Bush is second at 14%, the only competitors who reach double digits. Trump’s edge, which is within the poll’s margin of error, is one more sign that his ​harsh rhetoric about immigration and toward his rivals has struck a chord with some voters…

While he leads the GOP field, he fares the worst of seven hopefuls in hypothetical head-to-heads against former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic nominee. Bush, the strongest candidate against Clinton, lags by four points nationwide, 46%-42%. Trump trails by 17 points, 51%-34%

Nearly half of all those surveyed, 48%, say Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants, including characterizing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, matter a lot to their vote. Just 15% say the comments make them more likely to support him; 48% say they make them less likely

In the poll, 61% have an unfavorable impression of him and 23% a favorable one, a net-negative rating of 38 points. Bush’s favorable-unfavorable rating is 35%-42%.

Note that last bit. A Twitter pal made a good point a few days ago: All of these polls showing Trump surging are interesting, but how about polling him head to head against various Republican candidates? Nomination battles typically boil down to a two-man race after the early primaries shake out and most of the field quits in failure and frustration. We had Romney vs. Santorum in 2012, McCain vs. Huckabee (sort of) in 2008, and Bush vs. McCain in 2000. Eventually the centrists coalesce behind one champion (usually the winner in New Hampshire) while righties coalesce behind another (in theory the winner in Iowa) and then they battle it out for party supremacy. If you polled most insiders right now, I’d bet they see the same thing shaping up this year between Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. Walker will win Iowa, Bush will win New Hampshire, South Carolina will be chaos, and then they’ll go from there. Point being, even in an alternate universe where Trump is a serious contender, he’d eventually have to beat the establishment favorite one on one once the field’s been pared down. How does he do that with a 23/61 favorable rating?

The better his numbers are, the longer he’s in the race, the more the rest of the “anyone but Bush” candidates will be left gasping for media oxygen. In fact, have a look at RCP’s poll round-up over the past month. Virtually every top-tier candidate has lost support as Trump has risen:


Rubio and Ben Carson are back to low single digits and Scott Walker(!) may soon be joining them. Bush has lost traction too, but Bush can endure a Trump media blitz. He has his own name brand, after all, and as Trumpmania rages on, some GOP centrists who are iffy about Bush 3.0 may warm to him purely as the “sober” alternative who’s been anointed by all of the party’s wise men. Nothing would make Bush happier than a media narrative about “Jeb versus the Donald” that runs for many months; it may be the only way to turn the race from a referendum on nominating another Bush to a referendum on nominating the guy from “The Apprentice.” It looks like Trump may help him out with that narrative too:

Trump’s close associates — all of whom spoke anonymously with CNN to share his private thinking — said his preoccupation with Bush has been years in the making. His grievances, they said, go beyond policy disagreements with Bush over issues like the Iraq War, immigration and Common Core.

Described by friends as intensely competitive, Trump has a deep aversion to the idea of a dynasty candidate who might feel entitled to the party’s nomination. Privately and publicly, Trump is known to refer to Bush as “a stiff,” believing that the country badly needs a candidate who can energize the base and that Bush simply “is not a cheerleader,” one person in Trump’s inner circle said.

“For some reason they didn’t hit it off. Their styles are totally different,” one Trump friend said.

Trump’s animosity towards Bush in 2015 may come as a surprise to those who remember that years ago, the two men seemed to enjoy a friendlier relationship.

Lots of things have changed for Trump since “years ago,” like the fact that he believed in 2010 that Obama’s policies had saved America from a depression. How do you think that soundbite would play in a Jeb Bush attack ad if he and Trump were the last two men standing next March?

Here’s Bush heightening the contradictions.