We’ve gone through this cycle time and time again: Donald Trump says something that would normally disqualify a Republican presidential candidate, and then lo and behold, polls show him paying no price or even gaining strength. After last Saturday’s debate in South Carolina, Jonathan Chait thought perhaps Trump had finally gone too far — or shown he could not go too far — after an extended attack on George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism and Iraq War record in militaristic South Carolina. The immediate polling in the Palmetto State showed Trump maintaining or even expanding his lead, as did a poll in Nevada and at least one national survey.
But now there is a NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll showing Trump dropping seven points (from 33 percent to 26 percent) from the last survey they did, and just as dramatically, Ted Cruz rising from 20 percent to 28 percent to take first place.
The last time Trump failed to lead a public national poll of Republicans was a McLatchey/Marist survey at the beginning of November, which had Ben Carson leading him by a single point. That was 31 national polls ago. Last time anyone other than Carson led Trump in a national Republican poll was in July, when Jeb! was in first place with a booming 15 percent.
So pardon me if I want to see a couple more polls before concluding that Trump is finally fading. And remember that for a lot of Republicans, the good news that Trump’s running second is more than outweighed by the bad news that Ted Cruz is running first.