The topline news from the latest Quinnipiac poll follows the arc of other surveys in the past few weeks — Donald Trump holding his position, Ben Carson rising, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz separating from the pack. A few surprises emerge from this poll, though, including head-to-head numbers in the general election that should worry Hillary Clinton and Democrats. The most significant shift, however, might be the collapse of the standing of Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina in the race since the last Q-poll:
One year before Election Day 2016, Dr. Ben Carson is virtually tied with Donald Trump as strong front-runners for the Republican nomination, and Carson tops former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 50 – 40 percent in the final face-off, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.
Trump gets 24 percent of Republican votes, with Carson at 23 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 14 percent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 13 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 4 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. No other candidate tops 3 percent, with 9 percent undecided, and 63 percent who might change their mind.
Among Republicans, 25 percent of voters say they “would definitely not support” Trump, with 23 percent who would not back Bush.
Bush has taken a beating in the press after the last debate and the backfired attempt to attack Rubio on his Senate attendance record. Accordingly, Bush has dropped five points from his mid-September Q-poll rating of 9%, and his favorability among Republicans cratered from 59/24 to 44/47, or 38 points in the gap. Among all registered voters, Bush has crashed from 37/44 to an eye-popping 25/58 for a -33 overall. He’s now dead last in the GOP field in this measure, a full fourteen points behind Trump at -19.
Team Jeb was ready for bad news, and issued this tweet, via The Hill:
FYI political press corps. Jeb's going to have a few weeks of bad polls. Comebacks take time, we recognize and are prepared for that.
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) November 2, 2015
Well, maybe, but usually that kind of comeback refers to voter preference. How does one come back in a few weeks from a collapse of favorability on this scale? Bush lost thirty-eight points of favorability in the gap among Republican voters in six weeks, and it’s a good guess that a large chunk of that came as a result of his decision to sling mud at Rubio in desperation. What can he do as a candidate to regain that affection? He’s no longer in office, so he can’t demonstrate any new qualities of leadership. If he could campaign effectively enough to woo voters back after cratering to this extent, Bush wouldn’t find himself in this predicament. Team Jeb will point to John McCain’s resurrection in 2007, but (a) that happened earlier in the primary schedule, and (b) McCain’s collapse was organizational, not personal.
Bush isn’t the only candidate facing these questions. In mid-September, Fiorina had risen to 12 points, ahead of Bush and beginning to rise to the top of the leaderboard — or so it seemed. Instead, Fiorina is back to 3% and barely registers in any demos. Unlike Bush, Fiorina’s favorability hasn’t collapsed; among Republicans, she has gone from 67/8 to 69/13, and from second place to fourth in this quality. That’s still a highly positive figure (and she’s +10 among all registered voters), but Fiorina doesn’t appear to have the organization to take advantage of it.
With all of this sturm und drang in the GOP, it’s easy to miss the big problems on the other side of the aisle. Hillary Clinton dominates the Democratic primary 53/35 over Bernie Sanders, thanks in large part to the exit of Joe Biden as an option, but that hasn’t solved her problems in a general election. Among all registered voters, Hillary is still net unfavorable at 42/52, a spread which increases among independents to 35/57. She only gets a 48/45 among women, and a 39/53 among white women and an 85/12 among African-American women, which is not as good as it might look. Hillary gets a bare 50/41 among millennial voters, hardly an indication of anything close to Barack Obama’s standing in either 2008 or 2012.
That leads to these head-to-head matchup results:
- Clinton gets 46 percent to Trump’s 43 percent;
- Rubio tops Clinton 46 – 41 percent;
- Cruz gets 46 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent;
- New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie tops Clinton 46 – 41 percent.
At this stage, with Hillary wrapping up the nomination and the GOP field still badly fractured, Hillary should be wiping the floor in head-to-head polling. Instead, she can only get to 46% against the GOP’s second-least-favorable candidate, and can’t get more than 43% against any other contenders. This should have Democrats relaunching their search for Plan B, but the cupboards are bare.