For the next few hours (or days, or weeks), pundits will be sure to cite the latest polling out of Iowa — the first state to vote in the presidential nominating process — to show that the Republican electorate has made up its mind about Donald Trump.
At first glance, those pundits might sound right: Just after his debate performance, CNN's poll of 544 likely Republican caucus-goers showed that if the contest were held today, Trump would win with 22 percent of the vote; Ben Carson would likely trail in second with 14 percent. (The margin of error is four points, so conceivably, they could tie at 18.)
When CNN asked participants if they have "definitely decided" whom they'd support in the Iowa caucuses, 66 percent said they were "still trying to decide."
And on several major policy fronts, the real-estate titan slaughters his fellow Republicans. When asked which candidate "would best handle" particular policy issues as president, Trump dominated on the economy (37 percent, with second-place Carly Fiorina at 10 percent); illegal immigration (35 percent, with Ted Cruz coming in at second with 12 percent); and terrorism (21 percent, with Cruz next at 13 percent). Only on the subject of abortion was Trump not in first place. These issues-based questions each had an MOE of 4 points as well.
Trump is now defying the laws of political gravity, remaining buoyantly popular when others would have crashed — spectacularly, in mind-dazzling flames — to the ground. After weeks of controversy since his announcement, and in the days after his tete-a-tete with Megyn Kelly at the first GOP debate — Trump hasn't lost the favor of those Americans for whom his grandiosity and brash politics strike an appealing chord.