Trump momentum shows signs of stalling
The real estate mogul is losing steam at the polls, giving rivals hope that a Trump slump is taking hold.
The summer of Trump is over, and rival campaigns are latching onto glimmers of hope that autumn will be the season of the billionaire businessman’s decline.
After faltering in last week’s debate, Donald Trump showed signs that the campaign grind has taken its toll. He’s taking longer to shake off controversial remarks, delivering relatively subdued performances during interviews and campaign appearances, and, most disconcertingly, stalling in polls.
The latest national Quinnipiac University survey, released Thursday, provided some fuel to wishful rivals. Trump still leads among registered Republican voters with 25 percent, statistically unchanged from last month’s Quinnipiac survey that put him at 28 percent. Yet it’s the second major national poll this week showing a slight decrease from last month — Trump experienced an 8-point drop in the CNN/ORC survey released Sunday. (A Fox poll released Wednesday evening also showed Trump with relatively stalled momentum, and a Bloomberg survey of the GOP field showed Trump in a holding pattern at 21 percent.)
But even before the latest polls, rivals were taking heart that maybe, just maybe, the air has begun to seep out of the Trump balloon. “The great salesman Donald Trump may in fact be failing at the single most important thing in politics — and that is to seal the deal,” said a strategist at a rival campaign. “It’s been a very long summer. It’s been a deluge of 24 hours a day, seven days a week Donald Trump. … When you reach that point of oversaturation, which I believe Trump is at right now, you only start to go down.”
Curt Anderson, Bobby Jindal’s chief strategist, when asked whether Trump had peaked based on recent evidence, had some harsh words. “I think the bloom is off the rose for sure. Every act gets old. Plays run on Broadway only for so long. The first five times he calls people an idiot it’s funny. I think at this point, it’s kind of gotten stale.”
Anderson said Jindal gets a good reception every time he bashes Trump on the trail. “If you look at Republicans and Iowa caucus voters, they’re serious about their vote. They’re professional voters. … It’s not going to happen for him there.”
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Jindal’s attacks are absurd. “We won’t respond to the failing campaign of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who continues to receive less than 1 percent support in the most recent Fox News poll,” she told POLITICO.
Adding pressure to Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker late Wednesday made an explicit call to take out the real estate mogul, telling top donors that he wants other struggling candidates to drop out of the presidential race so Republicans can coalesce around an alternative to Trump.
Walker, who dropped out of the race on Monday, said others should also consider bowing out because “in the end, if we narrow the field to just a few quality, positive alternatives to the front-runner, it’s not only good for the party, it’s good for the country.”
Trump, in a statement, brushed off Walker’s proposal. “The voters have focused on my proven ability to get things done and my positive vision to Make America Great Again. That is why I am leading in every poll,” he said.
While it’s unclear if anyone will answer Walker’s call, it’s undeniable that Trump has lost some mojo. Less tangible evidence, like pictures of empty seats at a Trump event, repeated questions from supporters about sagging poll numbers and more bullish rivals taking new strategic tacks to get under Trump’s skin have begun to pervade the front-runner’s narrative. And even though it’s too soon to tell whether his dip in polls is temporary, it has coincided with sharp rises from former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Trump himself is showing signs that his lack of momentum may be getting to him. He went out of his way at back-to-back events in South Carolina on Tuesday to point to his still relatively strong poll performances. He also took to the morning talk shows Thursday to boast about his standing.
When asked on CNN whether he thinks his lead is slipping, Trump was unequivocal: “No, I don’t. I actually think it’s doing very well. If you look at the Fox poll that just came out, it’s an even bigger margin than this [Quinnipiac poll]. And if you look at the NBC poll, it’s a much bigger margin. Then if you look at Zogby, and if you look at Reuters, and if you look at some of these other polls, it’s through the roof. No, I don’t think — I heard your statement, is it slipping, I know you want to get people to watch.”
Trump supporters told POLITICO they’re hopeful he’ll rebound, but they weren’t shy about pointing out his mistakes of late — including his gratuitous comment about Fiorina’s face.
“It was so unnecessary because he doesn’t have to worry about her at all, and why he did that I have no idea,” said Darlene Peavy, 45, a real estate agent, during a Trump rally in South Carolina on Wednesday night. “I think he’s down a little bit because of his comment.”
After dominating the first presidential debate, sucking up a good portion of the airtime, Trump faded a bit during this month’s debate on CNN, landing fewer zingers and ceding memorable lines to candidates such as Carly Fiorina, who countered Trump’s “look at that face” comments with a firm condemnation: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Linda Coffield, 61, a federal employee, said at Trump’s Wednesday rally that she had hoped Trump would have performed better in last week’s debate.”I wanted him to be more forceful,” she said. “I wanted him to shut them down. I wanted him to be stronger.”
He also caught plenty of flak for failing to correct an audience member last week at a New Hampshire town hall who said President Barack Obama is a Muslim and not an American.
While Trump has surged in the past after making inflammatory comments, he seemingly hasn’t shaken off these incidents as quickly, and pronounced to a crowd of business leaders on Wednesday, “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap.”
Trump’s also facing the momentum of the other outsider candidates, notably retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Fiorina. The Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday showed Carson coming in second with 17 percent, an increase of 5 points from last month, followed by Fiorina at 12 percent, up 7 points.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, came in at 10 percent, up 3 points; Rubio at 9 percent, up 2 points; and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 7 percent, holding steady. Other candidates polled at 2 percent or less, with 9 percent undecided.