Just to be clear, I don’t think the current state of the horse race in the Presidential race is the best predictor of the ultimate outcome this far from actual voting. The ground can shift because of a change in prominence of issues (e.g. a major national security matter), perception of positions or the candidate, and changes in the fortunes of one of the leaders, etc. I see a path for all the top six candidates to get the nomination.
What is interesting in the polls is trying to discern how voters appear to be forming their choices.
Over the past few months, the viable candidates’ support has vacillated in a very small range except for Carson. Which leads me to two questions: Why is Carson surging? And is that surge sustainable. To do that, I decided to drill down on the Quiniapac Iowa poll. I’ve always liked Quinniapiac polls especially at this stage because they provide information beyond the horse race and give insight into voter’s mindset/priorities with the question: “Thinking about the Republican nominee for president in 2016, which of the following is most important to you?” and how the candidates stack up on that factor.
Shares values (28%): If a candidate shares my values, it gives me significant confidence they would make decisions that coincide with my values. Even if I disagree on a particular issue, I can get some consolation that if I had the same information maybe I’d choose as they choose. This is always a major consideration in selecting the President. Its where stands on issues are incorporated. A candidate who agrees with me on the issues “shares my values” and vice versa. Carson +72%, Rubio +49%, Cruz + 44%, Fiorina +35%, Bush +9%, Trump -10%
Honest/Trustworthy (23%): Again, this related to values. However, I can never recall in the past where this was necessary to ask because it was assumed all candidates in both parties were essentially honest and trustworthy. Carson +81%, Rubio +60%, Cruz + 56%, Fiorina +48%, Bush +31%, Trump +3%
Strong Leadership (19%): This factor gets into ability to actually do the job and produce accomplishment. Trump +62%, Carson +57%, Rubio +57%, Cruz + 51%, Fiorina +51%, Bush +38%
Best chance of winning (13%): This factor is a reflection of the GOP primary voter of an understanding a Republican candidate is more often than not better at representing their values than a Democrat. Quinniapac didn’t ask who voters thought had the best chance of winning. I suspect they didn’t ask as it is a guess into the hearts and minds of others and is so volatile it is probably useless data at this time. I suspect it becomes a more important factor just before people vote.
Cares about the needs and problems of people like me (9%): Most Americans think beyond themselves and to the greater good so while important, it usually isn’t as important as “shared values” or “right experience.” However, this is also where stands on issues show up but more with regard to priority of issues by the candidate. A candidate who doesn’t focus on the economy when I’m having economic problems will be perceived to not care about me and my problems. Carson +78%, Rubio +57%, Cruz +53%, Fiorina +45%, Bush +13%, Trump +3%
Right Experience (5%): This factor goes to proven ability to do the job day-in and day-out. In the past, after “shared values” this was a very significant factor. The fact it is down relative to other factors is an expression of the frustration with “experience” making a difference. Bush +55%, Cruz +50%, Rubio +49%, Carson +22%, Trump +15%, Fiorina +14%
Because Quinniapiac didn’t ask voters to rank the importance of the issues I used Gallup which consistently monitors issues for relative importance aggregating Gallups detail into generalities (for instance, lumping foreign policy, international issues and defense together). Quinniapiac asked who voters thought best could handle the following issues:
Economy (29%): Trump 41%, Carson 12%, Cruz 8%, Fiorina 8%, Rubio 6%, Bush 5%
Social Issues (25%): Carson 31%, Cruz 13%, Trump 11%, Rubio 9%, Fiorina 8%, Bush 3%
Foreign Policy (12%): The upcoming CNBC debate is focused on foreign policy. These numbers could change significantly. Rubio 18%, Trump 17%, Cruz 11%, Carson 9%, Bush 8%, Fiorina 6%.
Illegal Immigration (12%): Trump 37%, Rubio 15%, Cruz 14%, Carson 9%, Bush 5%, Fiorina 1%
Finally, Quinniapiac asked what is the best profile to be President. What the following seems to indicate when over 50% of GOP voters support people who have never held office is profile isn’t a significant factor at least at this point in the campaign.
Governor: 38%, Never held office (no experience): 34%, Senator: 15%.
Finally, there is the question of which candidates voters “would definitely NOT support for the Republican nomination?”
Carson (4%), Rubio (5%), Cruz (7%), Fiorina (8%), Bush (21%), & Trump (30%). If these numbers continue to hold, Bush and Trump appear to be the least likely to prevail in a small field unless they are the last two standing.
The combination of all these factors is essentially summarized in the Favorable/Unfavorable perception of the candidate as a whole.
Carson +74%: Carson appears to have a virtual halo above him. While there is likely a strong desire by the other candidates to attack him because he is now leading in Iowa, personally attacking a saint is likely to splash more mud on the attacker than Carson. Because he doesn’t have a record, it will be hard to attack him on issues. This suggests the only way to impact Carson’s support is to make experience the defining issue, whether it be Trump and Fiorina highlighting running a business, Bush running a State, or Rubio & Cruz dealing with the issues of the day in a very real way.
Rubio +55%, Cruz +47%, Fiorina +43%: These three candidates have positioned themselves to pounce on a shake-up both above and below themselves but there may be room for only one to actually get traction from the shake-up. While not suggesting they become fatalistic or passive, their fortunes to large degree depend on the success and failure of other candidates.
Trump +10%: Trump has 43% of the Iowa caucus goers who see him in a negative light despite dominating on leadership, the economy, and illegal immigration. He has to address these current realities or his prospects will dim: Frankly, Trump isn’t “Great” when voters are asked if he shares their values, is honesty/trustworthy, or cares about their problems. A certain segment may agree with him on some specifics but as voters get closer to actually voting, failing the “good neighbor” test will not produce good results. Trump may have killed himself with this response Iowa caucus goers now prefer Carson: “#BenCarson is now leading in the #polls in #Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain?”
Bush -8%: As dugger & Spencer (posted in another thread) noted, this is definitely a problem. Currently 51% of Iowa caucus goers perceive him negatively. Despite being a former Governor (leading profile of voters) and leading with the right experience, Bush is at the bottom or next to the bottom on the issues, leadership, and caring about what voters care about. “Resume” (which also works against him because of his last name) will not cut it.
In short, right now, something tells me I’d rather be Rubio, Cruz or Fiorina right now. If any of them can finish in the top three in IA, NH or SC, their star will rise. Carson’s bubble is inflated beyond what is sustainable, Trump’s “bubble” seems to be so fixed it can’t grow, and because Bush’s “bubble” appears to have a big hole, ironically after earlier being the favorite, if Bush gets the nomination he will be known as the surprise nominee. If Carson, Trump, or Bush don’t get in the top three in at least two of the first three states, their stars will fade.
Personal comment: I can see no reason for Gilmore, Jindal, Huckabee, Kasich, Christie and Pataki to stay in the race. That said, I think Graham (supporting material intervention in the Middle East) and Paul (opposing intervention in the Middle East) should stay in the race because this is an issue that deserves its own debate.
P.S. Bush’s announcement today of cutting senior staff and other expenses is getting mixed reviews but most reactions are an assertion he is running out of cash. I have a different reaction because the scope isn’t significant enough to extend his runway materially. Campaigns can’t fire the candidate but they can change the team. His prior team was not helping him go forward. To do nothing was more likely going to lead to nothing different and frankly, he needs to do something different. What is clear is the cuts appear to direct resources away from March primary states while preserving organization and advertising funds for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. This tells me Bush’s team recognizes finishing 6th in the first three states may result in him not getting to compete in the March primary states.
For those who think it mean anything, current offshore betting odds on who wins the nomination:
Rubio: 30% (up 1%), Bush: 20% (down 4%), Trump: 16% (up 2%), Carson: 10% (up 2%), Cruz: 6% (flat), Fiorina: 6% (up 1%).
If one were to bet $100 on all six, one would lose $600 if it the winner were not listed above, lose $265 if Rubio wins, lose $100 if Bush wins, and win money if Trump, Carson, Cruz or Fiorina won (at least $1,000 if it were Cruz or Fiorina). If one were to bet on the three I mention above I think are in the best position, one would lose $300 if Trump, Carson, Bush or someone not listed above were to be nominated and win $35 if it is Rubio, $1,300 if Cruz, and $1,500 if Fiorina. If I were a betting man (and this were legal), I’d make the latter bet.
That said, because betting with money tends to minimize one’s preference and emotion, Bush’s odds should give pause to anyone who wants to count Bush out. And, not get to excited by Trump’s or Carson’s current standing in the polls.
BTW, the betters give Sanders a better chance of winning the Democrat nomination than they give Trump, Carson, Cruz or Fiorina. Draw your own conclusions.