Both are important early states and both have Trump way, way out in front per CNN’s latest. And do note, Trump fans: Both are polls of likely Republican voters, not just adults. The big rap on Trump from his critics to this point is that he’s doing gangbusters numbers among adults generally, who know him from “The Apprentice” and as that rich guy with his name on all the buildings, but that those adults tend not to vote in actual elections. CNN talked to actual voters in NV and SC and found them strongly pro-Trump — and committed to sticking with him, at least in the case of Nevada.
I should note that the Nevada sample is small, just 281 GOP LVs, but even a big margin of error of six percent isn’t enough to call Trump’s lead into question here. He’s ahead in both states.
Trump holds 38% support in Nevada, with Carson in second with 22%, and in South Carolina, Trump doubles Carson’s support, 36% to 18%. No other candidate comes close to those top two in either state; the third-place candidate in each case has less than 10% support…
Trump’s supporters in Nevada are more committed than others: Among those likely caucus-goers who say they have made up their minds or are leaning toward someone, 53% support Trump, 21% Carson, 7% Rubio and everyone else is at 5% or less. Those who say they are still trying to decide whom to support break 21% each for Carson and Trump, 12% for Fiorina, 10% for Bush, 9% for Huckabee and 6% for Rubio.
Trump is also waaaaay ahead in both states when voters are asked which Republican has the best chance of winning the general election, a result that’s sort of predictable — of course the frontrunner will come out ahead on that question — and sort of not, given Trump’s reputation as a loose cannon. But that’s an important result given that “electability” arguments will increasingly be made against him as we get closer to actual voting. Forty-seven percent of likely voters in Nevada and 44 percent in South Carolina say that Trump is the GOP’s best shot to win. By comparison, Mr. (Alleged) Electability, Jeb Bush, finishes in both states with … seven percent.
Here’s the number I want to spotlight, though. Trump is winning big because he’s taken the hardest line of any Republican on immigration, right? GOP voters have a fee-vah and the only prescription is blocking amnesty, and Trump’s the guy who’s promised to do that — or so the media narrative would have you believe. And it’s true, he’s far ahead when Republicans are asked who’d do the best job on illegal immigration as president, with 55 percent of GOP voters in Nevada naming him (Rubio’s in second with just 13 percent) and 51 percent in South Carolina (versus 11 percent for Rubio). Trump is also way ahead when voters are asked who’d do the most to change how things work in Washington as president, another important metric and unsurprising outcome. But check out these numbers. Here’s what you get when you ask Nevada voters who’d be best on the economy:
And here’s what happens when you ask South Carolinians:
Gigantic leads. If you doubt how much that matters, here’s how Nevada Republican voters respond when asked which issue matters the most to them:
For all the hype, immigration is a distant third, far behind the economy. It’s even worse in South Carolina:
Immigration’s in fifth. The argument from border hawks, I assume (and they’re not wrong about this), is that immigration is inextricable from the economy. Part of the reason why so many have economic confidence in Trump is because they think he’d boost wages by reducing competition from illegal labor. True enough, but it’s only part; if immigration was the driving force behind Trumpmania, presumably it would be higher in these lists of priorities. Trump’s economic appeal, I think, comes from a bunch of things — his immigration stance, his rhetorical focus on repatriating jobs from overseas, and his personal wealth. I think he’s benefiting from a “Romney effect,” i.e. “the rich guy must know what he’s doing,” plus a protectionist appeal among the middle class that Romney never had. The rest of the field had better figure out a way to cut into his lead on this issue or they’re in trouble.
Speaking of trouble, can Ted Cruz really do no better than five percent, a point behind Jeb Bush, in a southern conservative state like South Carolina? Gadzooks. Trump and Carson are starving him to death there right now. Jeb himself, meanwhile, is an afterthought in both states, both in the electability numbers noted above and the topline numbers: He’s at six percent in South Carolina and Nevada, good for fifth place. Yeesh. There’s a new national poll out today from YouGov — led by Trump with 28 percent — that also shows Bush struggling, stuck in sixth place with just seven percent. His favorable rating in that poll among Republicans is just 52/43, compared to 63/35 for Trump. When Republicans are asked whether various candidates could possibly win the general election versus couldn’t possibly win, Bush splits 54/33 versus 64/21 for Marco Rubio and 72/20(!) for Trump.
These numbers, though, are especially brutal:
Jeb’s strategy at this point is to hang around long enough to end up in a head-to-head death match for the nomination with some other survivor, on the theory that when Republicans are forced to choose between him and someone else, they’ll grudgingly pull the lever for the electable guy named Bush. Not only is that wildly untrue vis-a-vis Rubio, though (at least as of today), it’s also true of the supposedly unelectable Trump. If Republicans are forced to roll the dice on one or the other of them, they’ll take their chances with the loose cannon instead of Bush 3.0. That’s a crushing reality for Jeb. And if it doesn’t change soon, I don’t know how donors continue to stick with him as the establishment’s best shot instead of Rubio.