NC poll: Head to head, Trump trails Walker, Rubio, and Carson -- but leads Jeb Bush

New from PPP. “Why should I care about a poll of North Carolina?” you’re asking yourself. It’s not so much that you should care about NC as you should care about head-to-head results, and this poll is one of the few taken since Trumpmania began that shows how he’d fare in that regard. Remember, it won’t be long after the first few primary states vote that the field shrinks dramatically and we’re left with three or four viable candidates. Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio will probably be one of them depending upon who wins Florida. Ted Cruz is likely to be one of them given his surprising fundraising haul and his expected strength in the south. The winner in Iowa, be it Scott Walker, Ben Carson, or someone else, might also have enough momentum to be viable in March. And of course Donald Trump, the current frontrunner, will still be standing if he can hold onto his 25 percent share of the vote. With each new primary result, though, the viability of one or more of these candidates will fade. And since Trump is the establishment’s public enemy number one, they’ll be applying heavy pressure on the two or three other candidates who are still around next spring to back the most viable among them and give voters a binary “Trump versus Not Trump” choice (assuming Trump himself is still in the race at the time, of course). If you’re serious about nominating Trump, you need 51 percent of Republicans to prefer him to the other guy once that binary choice is forced. PPP’s poll gives us a small window onto whether that’s likely, at least at this early stage.

Answer: Nope.

Trump’s 8 point gain gives him the biggest momentum in the state over the last month. The other two candidates with upward momentum are Carson and Cruz. Carson’s gone from 9% to 14% as people’s first choice. Beyond that he’s 21% of voters’ second choice, making him the clear leader on that front. And his 66/11 favorability rating makes him the most popular of the GOP hopefuls in the state. Cruz has gone from 6% a month ago to his 10% standing now…

If voters had to choose just between Trump and Ben Carson (59/35), Marco Rubio (51/43), or Scott Walker (50/43) the supporters of the other candidates would coalesce around the non-Trump candidate enough that he would lag behind. Trump has the most passionate supporters at this point but at the end of the day his popularity isn’t that broad. He would at least lead Bush 50/42 in a head to head. Bush has a 37/47 favorability with ‘very conservative’ voters and that skepticism towards him on the right will continue to cause him problems unless he can change that.

Trump leads the race overall by 10 points, but force people to pick him or one of the other men who trail him and he fades behind them. (By nearly 25 points when facing off with Carson, another Beltway outsider!) This isn’t the only poll lately either to show Republicans swinging behind “Not Trump” when asked to choose between him and anyone else:

Could Trump grow his current support to a majority of Republican primary voters? A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll of all Republicans shows that he faces considerable resistance. On a two-way, forced-choice question, 26 percent of Republican registered voters said they preferred Donald Trump as their nominee — a number roughly comparable to his standing in other polls — but 54 percent said they prefer “someone else.”

The new CNN poll found a similar result: Thirty-eight percent of Republican registered voters said their party has a “better chance of winning the presidency in 2016” if Trump is their nominee, while 58 percent said they will have a better chance with “someone else.”

Because Trump’s already so famous, Mark Blumenthal speculates, it may be hard for him to convince skeptics who are already opposed to him to give him a second look. (Then again, that was also the reason given early for why Trump probably couldn’t improve his dismal favorable rating among Republicans, right before he turned those numbers upside down by taking a hard line on immigration.) In particular, it may be that Trump’s many heresies against conservatism in the past have convinced conservative voters that he’s unsuitable to be nominee, even if they’re enjoying the anti-establishment show he’s putting on right now. Check out the ideological breakdown in the head-to-head match-ups with Carson, Rubio, and Walker:


Contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s moderates, not conservatives, who are making Trump competitive against the more right-wing candidates in the race — even though “very conservative” voters give Trump a higher favorable rating (51/35) than moderates do (49/40). Conservatives like him. They just don’t like him as much as they like an actual conservative, at least in North Carolina. That’s a bad omen for Trump when The Winnowing begins to happen next spring.

Even so, he’s not the biggest loser in this poll. Behold the fate of Mr. Electability:


Not only will conservatives bite the bullet and vote for Trump over the establishmentarian Bush, but Jeb can’t even make up for that among his supposed base of moderates. They too prefer the loose cannon Trump to Bush 3.0. In a week of terrible polls for Jeb, this may be the most discouraging.

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