Donald Trump is still gaining political capital from his attacks on immigrants and Mexico – at least for the short term. A USA Today poll of prospective Republican voters places him as the frontrunner among the 15 contenders vying to become the party’s candidate for the 2016 presidential election.
But as with all polls – especially ones this far away from election day and the primaries that will pare down the list of contenders as 2016 progresses – the fine print is important, and here, it clearly diminishes Trump’s apparent advantage.
Trump’s lead shrinks in the broader race, especially when he comes up against the strongest Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton
According to the poll, the business magnate is the frontrunner with 17% of the Republican vote with his closest rival, Jeb Bush, trailing him on 14%. No other Republican hopeful has enough support to reach double figures.
But, and this is a big but, Trump’s success is not absolute, USA Today warns. First, this survey of 1,000 adults taken between July 9 and July 12 had a three-percent margin of error – equal to the difference between Trump and Bush.
Besides, Trump’s lead shrinks in the broader race, especially when he comes up against the strongest Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. The business mogul-turned-politician then has the worst results among the top seven Republican contenders. Bush (42%) polls four points behind Clinton (46%) with Marco Rubio six points behind the former secretary of state. But if Trump had to face Clinton in the November 2016 elections, he would come in 17 points behind her – with 34% of the vote to her 51%.
“We have seen how Donald Trump has reached the top spot, but the question is whether he will be able to stay at the top,” says David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University political research center, the organization that partnered with USA Today to carry out the poll. According to Paleologos, Trump would not be the first candidate to become popular and then vanish from the political map when the race gets serious. “In 2012, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain led the Republican primaries but then they ended up disappearing,” Paleologos said.
In the short run, however, Trump is still benefiting from the controversy caused by his statements that immigrants who cross the border into the United States from Mexico are mostly rapists and drug traffickers. These have at least enabled him to temporarily draw the attention of the media, which is nothing to sneeze at given the long list of Republican candidates.
The fight for the limited number of spots in the televised presidential debates is fierce – only 10 of the 15 Republican hopefuls will participate in the contest, with whoever is leading the pack getting in. Trump, who knows the media machine well (he enjoyed success with his show The Apprentice until NBC joined a long list of businesses that decided to sever ties with the magnate because of his insults against immigrants), has secured himself a seat – at least for the first Republican presidential debate, which will be hosted by Fox on August 6.
Translation by Dyane Jean François.