Macy's is ditching him, NBC has let him go, and Univision refuses to broadcast his famed beauty pageant. But American voters are still entertaining the idea of President Donald Trump.
In a Republican presidential field rich with esteemed governors and senators, tough-talking businessman Trump has managed to rise in the polls to be a top-tier candidate even after he elicited controversy for his statements about Mexican immigrants during his campaign announcement.
A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday showed Trump had 12 percent of the vote among Republicans and Republican-leaners, second only to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who earned 19 percent. A Quinnipiac poll, which was also out Wednesday, revealed Trump was also tied for second with Dr. Ben Carson among likely Republican caucus voters in Iowa. Carson and Trump each had 10 percent of the vote. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker led the pack with 18 percent.
But with so many qualified Republican presidential contenders out there, Trump's rise is not expected to last. Several pollsters consulted for the story say the recent bump may reflect the entrepreneur's high name ID more than it shows genuine voter support. And at a time when the Republican field is so fractured, with more than a dozen candidates in the race, Trump's low, double-digit poll numbers are enough to fling him toward the top. If he cannot expand his base, though, he's expected to fizzle out fast.
"He obviously benefits from his celebrity, but I think more to the point, there is no question that there is a segment of the Republican electorate that is strongly anti-immigrant and there is an overlapping piece of the Republican electorate that is anti-politician," says Geoff Garin, the president of the Democratic polling firm Hart Research. "Donald Trump appeals to those voters, and not in the most sophisticated way possible, but in the loudest way possible."
As the Republican field begins to narrow, pollsters say Trump will likely begin to fade. Earlier poll numbers revealed that Trump remained the most unlikable candidate in the race from voters' perspective. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 74 percent of Republican primary voters said flatly they could not support him. He may have 10 percent of the vote now, but he would need to amass far more and mobilize more moderate voters to get to a majority. While his financial prowess may enable him to stay in the race far longer than other "flavor of the week" Republican candidates of the past, Trump is still a long way from the White House.
"Trump, if he is willing to spend his own money, has a little more capacity for staying power, but I think both his character and tone of his message raises real questions about whether he has potential to grow much," Garin says.
At the moment, the 2016 presidential race appears to share a common feature with the 2012 race, with all the candidates having their moment in the polls. In 2012, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, pizza mogul Herman Cain, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each had their moments, but Garin predicts as soon as voting starts in the early states this cycle, that boomlet phase will peter out.
Still, Trump's rise in the polls is not insignificant. With limited spots on the debate stage, every percentage point counts. Pollsters say early indicators used to be irrelevant, just snapshots in time.
"Now, all of a sudden, these surveys have a different meaning," says David Winston, a Republican strategist.
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