Donald Trump — yes, that Donald Trump — is edging every single GOP candidate running for president in an early primary state except for one, a new Suffolk University poll finds. He’s polling at 11 percent overall in New Hampshire, and thus only trails the nominal frontrunner, Jeb Bush, by three percentage points:
The results are mystifying, in part because The Donald’s favorables are deeply underwater (37/49), and in part because only 60 percent of the poll’s 500 respondents want him on-stage debating other candidates. Nevertheless, the director of the university’s Political Research Center, David Paleologos, provides a plausible explanation for why Trump, in the summer of 2015, is an early favorite to win the Granite State.
“Jeb Bush continues to lead, but Donald Trump has emerged as an anti-Jeb Bush alternative in New Hampshire,” he said in a statement. “Many of those who like Trump are voting for him, and although many more dislike him, the unfavorables are split up among many other candidates. It’s the politics of plurality.”
That is to say, because there are so many other candidates in the running — and 13 percent of self-described conservatives already back him — the presidential longshot is able to sit comfortably in second place with only 11 percent of the vote. The trouble with his celebrity status and early lead, however, according to Paleologos, is that he may not be able to grow his base of support, especially as other candidates begin spending more and more time in the state.
“Trump’s controversial candidacy is being constructed in a way that gives him visibility and exposure in the short term but may also limit his growth in the long run, like a glass ceiling,” Paleologos said.
If true, this means Trump will only lose supporters over the course of the campaign, not gain them. Realistically, too, no one actually believes Trump has the political acumen — or appeal — to win the nomination. But could he win the New Hampshire primary, I wonder, given the fact that he’s a billionaire, entirely self-funded, and off to an early lead?
Doubtful, of course, but I guess we’ll see.