The Iowa frontrunners: #1 Trump & #2 CarsonPhoto credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)
The Iowa frontrunners: #1 Donald Trump & #2 Ben Carson
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Both nationally and in Iowa we are seeing a rise of candidates who not only have not run for President before, but have not held any elected office.  Four polls tell the story… the top two candidates according to the four polls taken in August in Iowa are real estate tycoon and celebrity Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.  Here are the poll results:

CNN/ORC poll (8/7-8/11)

  1. Donald Trump – 22%
  2. Ben Carson – 14%
  3. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – 9%
  4. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) – 8%
  5. (Tie) former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee & former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – 7%
  6. (Tie) Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) – 5%
  7. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – 3%
  8. (Tie) Ohio Governor John Kasich, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal & U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – 2%
  9. (Tie) Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) & former Texas Governor Rick Perry – 1%

Des Moines Register/Bloomberg (8/23-8/26)

  1. Trump – 23%
  2. Carson – 18%
  3. (Tie) Cruz & Walker – 8%
  4. (Tie) Bush & Rubio – 6%
  5. Fiorina – 5%
  6. (Tie) Huckabee & Paul – 4%
  7. (Tie) Kasich, Christie & Jindal – 2%
  8. (Tie) Santorum & Perry – 1%
  9. Graham – 0%

Loras College (8/24 – 8/27)

  1. Trump – 25%
  2. Carson – 18%
  3. Bush – 10%
  4. Cruz – 7%
  5. Walker – 6%
  6. Fiorina – 5%
  7. (Tie) Rubio & Huckabee – 4%
  8. Kasich – 3%
  9. Christie & Paul – 2%
  10. (Tie) Jindal, Santorum & Perry – 1%
  11. Graham – 0%

Monmouth University (8/27-8/30)

  1. (Tie) Trump & Carson – 23%
  2. Fiorina – 10%
  3. Cruz – 9%
  4. Walker – 7%
  5. Bush – 5%
  6. (Tie) Rubio & Kasich – 4%
  7. Paul – 3%
  8. Santorum – 2%
  9. (Tie) Christie, Jindal & Perry – 1%
  10. Graham – 0%

Real Clear Politics Average of Polls (8/7-8/30)

  1. Trump – 23.3%
  2. Carson – 18.3%
  3. Cruz – 8.0%
  4. Walker – 7.5%
  5. Fiorina – 6.8%
  6. Bush – 6.5%
  7. Rubio – 4.8%
  8. Huckabee – 4.3%
  9. Paul – 3.5%
  10. Kasich – 2.8%
  11. Christie – 2.0%
  12. Jindal – 1.5%
  13. Santorum – 1.3%
  14. Perry – 1.0%
  15. Graham 0.5%

Looking at the RCP average three out of the top 5 candidates are non-politicians with Fiorina joining Trump and Carson.

It’s pretty clear in the polling what is driving this.  Republicans are unhappy with status quo.

In the Loras College poll 63.3% of Republicans said yes to the statement, “I don’t like what national Republican leaders are doing and we need a change in leadership.”  In The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll 54% of Republicans said they were unsatisfied with Republicans in Congress.  21% said they were “mad as hell” about Congressional Republicans.  62% of Republicans said they were generally unsatisfied with all politicians, 22% said they were “mad as hell.”  In the Monmouth University poll 66% of Republicans said there needs to be a new approach in Washington.

Another question struck out at me that could explain why candidates who are not as clear on issues are doing well.  The DMR/Bloomberg poll asked “Do you want to be clear about specific issues a candidate would address if elected or do you trust the candidate to figure it out?”  Only 41% want it to be clear with 57% saying they would trust the candidate to figure it out.  Considering how dissatisfied with politicians this response is a little mind boggling to me as it is counter-intuitive with the current sentiment towards Washington, DC.

This is still a fluid race. According to the Monmouth University poll only 12% of likely Republican caucusgoers are completely decided about their choice for February’s caucus. 42% said that while they have a strong preference for a candidate they would be willing to reconsider.  Only 25% of voters have choice narrowed down to 1 or 2 when it comes to the actual Iowa Caucus date.  54% of likely caucusgoers said there are 3 to 4 candidates they would be willing to consider.  17% said there are 5 or more.

The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll noted that there are 10% who were either undecided or uncommitted.  They also noted that over 3/4 of conservative Christians who make up 39% of likely caucusgoers in their pool said they would support another Christian conservative candidate even if it wasn’t their first or second choice.

Bush, Christie, Graham, Huckabee, Paul, Perry, Santorum and Walker saw significant polling loses this summer.  Monmouth University reports that Walker’s favorability rating has dropped since July from 73% favorable/9% unfavorable to 64% favorable/16% unfavorable.  Conversely The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll sees his margin stay practically the same with his favorability rating increasing by 5 points and his unfavorability rating increasing by four points.  Walker has dropped nine points in that poll however and dropped 6.4 points in the Loras College poll since April.

Monmouth, DMR/Bloomberg & Loras College notes high unfavorability ratings for Bush.  In the Monmouth Poll Bush dropped from 40% favorable/42% unfavorable in July to 32% favorable/51% unfavorable in August.  DMR/Bloomberg noted a 43% favorable/45% unfavorable rating for Bush in May, but now shows it stands at 45% favorable/50% unfavorable.  They also note a 3% drop in their poll since May.  Loras College is an outlier noting a 0.8% uptick among likely GOP caucusgoers since April.  Bush lands in their top five most unfavorable list however with a 38.4% unfavorable rating.

The DMR/Bloomberg poll shows Paul’s unfavorability dropping sharply from 55% favorable/34% unfavorable in May to 39% favorable/49% unfavorable in August.  Paul dropped six points among Republican caucusgoers as their first choice.  Paul dropped 2 points in the Monmouth poll from July to August.  He dropped four points in the Loras College poll since April.  He also makes it into the Loras College Poll’s top five unfavorable list with a 39% unfavorable rating.

Huckabee has maintained a high favorability rating, but has dropped four points from July in the Monmouth poll.  He has also dropped five points in the Loras College poll since April and has dropped five points since May in the DMR/Bloomberg poll.

Santorum dropped 1 point in the Monmouth poll, 3 points in the Loras poll since April and five points in the DMR/Bloomberg poll since May.  Santorum’s favorability rating also declined in the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  He dropped 8 points in his favorable rating since May from 56% to 48%.  His unfavorable rating grew 9 points from 28% in May to 37% in August.  The Santorum camp has claimed that their polling was low in the August before the Iowa Caucus.  Santorum at that point in time didn’t see a drop in polling however, and he had more trouble with name recognition than he does this time around.  While I wouldn’t write the campaign off at this point I also wouldn’t feel good about these numbers if I were a Santorum staffer.

Perry has also seen a drop in the polls.  He dropped 1 point since July in the Monmouth poll.  He also dropped 2 points since April in the Loras College poll and since May in the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  Perry also saw a slight decline in his favorable rating in the DMR poll.  He dropped five pints from 59% to 54%.  His unfavorable ratings also increased by 8 points from 29% to 37%.  Like Santorum he’s not in good shape a little over five months out from the Iowa Caucus.  Considering his campaign is out of money and he’s losing staff I’m not certain how long he’ll stay in the race.

Christie was a long shot in Iowa, and his odds are now worse.  Christie sits at 1% in the Monmouth poll in August which is where he sat in July.  He lost 2 points in both the Loras and DMR polls and is at the bottom of the pack.  He also has the 2nd highest unfavorable rating among Republicans in the Loras poll with 45.4%.  His favorability rating didn’t change much since May in the DMR/Bloomberg poll, but it is dismal.  Only 29% of Iowa Republicans have a favorable view of the New Jersey governor with 59% having an unfavorable view of him.  He’s simply a non-starter in Iowa which is why he hasn’t been to the state much.

Lindsey Graham, what to say about Lindsey Graham… in the last three polls Iowans consistently have him dead last.  According to the Loras College poll he has the highest unfavorable rating at 47.2%.  His favorability rating tanked since May according to the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  In May 22% of Iowa Republicans had favorable opinion of him.  Now only 15% do.  In May he had a 38% unfavorable rating, in August that is 59%.  So the more Iowans got to know Graham over the summer the less they liked him.

I will mention Rubio here, but he is doing much better than the others in this category. If I were to base this upon the Loras College poll with a six point drop since April he would be in really bad shape.  He only had a 1 point drop from July with the Monmouth polls.  He didn’t gain or lose since May with the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  His favorability rating hasn’t changed much in the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  His favorable rating went up 7 points since May from 60% to 67%.  HIs unfavorable rating climbed three points, but is still low from 17% to 20%.  He also has the third highest favorable rating in the Loras College poll at 59.8%.  Also, according to the Loras College poll Rubio was the 2nd choice of 8.4% of voters so if I were a Rubio staffer I wouldn’t be as concerned with the numbers than if I were Santorum, Perry or Christie.

The summer biggest winners according to polling are Trump, Carson, and Fiorina. Donald Trump has skyrocketed this summer.  He gained 19 points in the DMR/Bloomberg poll since April.  He gained 21.4 points in the Loras College poll since April.  Trump shot up 10 points from July in the Monmouth poll.  Trump has flipped his favorability rating according to the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  In May only 22% of likely Iowa GOP caucusgoers had a favorable opinion of Trump.  In August that jumped to 61%.  In May 63% of Iowa Republicans had a unfavorable opinion of Trump that declined by 28 points in August.

Carson also saw big gains in Iowa over the summer. Carson gained 8 points since May in the DMR/Bloomberg poll. He gained 11.8 points in the Loras College poll since April. He saw a 15 point jump in the Monmouth poll since July.  Carson saw a jump in favorability and name recognition among Iowa Republicans over the summer.  In May according to the DMR/Bloomberg poll Carson had a 56% favorable/15% unfavorable rating.  In August he had a 79% favorable/8% unfavorable rating.  He has the highest favorability rating in the Loras poll with 72.9%.

Fiorina also saw some gains.  She is now in the top five RCP polling average.  Her largest gain was with the Monmouth poll as she jumped 7 points since July.  She jumped 4 points since the last Loras poll in April and DMR/Bloomberg poll in May.  Fiorina also jumped in favorability.  In the DMR poll her favorable rating jumped 23 points from 41% in May to 64% in August while at the same time her unfavorable rating declined 4 points from 19% to 15%.  More Iowans are getting to know Fiorina and they like what they have seen and heard.  She also made the top five favorable list with the Loras College poll with a 55.2% favorable rating.

An honorable mention goes to Cruz as he had modest gains.  Cruz gained 2 points in the Monmouth poll and 3 points since May in the DMR/Bloomberg polling.  He remained unchanged since April in the Loras College poll.  His favorability rating has not changed much over the summer either.  His favorable rating gained two points in the DMR/Bloomberg poll since May from 59% to 61%.  He also gained four points with his unfavorable rating from 20% to 24%.  Also according to the DMR/Bloomberg poll 10% of Iowa Republicans would make him their second choice.

Rubio and Kasich could go either way, but Rubio has better odds.

If I were to base Rubio’s standing solely upon the Loras College poll with a six point drop since April he would be in really bad shape.  He only had a 1 point drop from July with the Monmouth polls.  He didn’t gain or lose since May with the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  His favorability rating hasn’t changed much in the DMR/Bloomberg poll.  His favorable rating went up 7 points since May from 60% to 67%.  HIs unfavorable rating climbed three points, but is still low from 17% to 20%.  He also has the third highest favorable rating in the Loras College poll at 59.8%.  Also, according to the Loras College poll Rubio was the 2nd choice of 8.4% of voters so if I were a Rubio staffer I wouldn’t be as concerned with the numbers than if I were working for Santorum, Perry or Christie.

Kasich gets an honorable mention, but unlike Cruz I’m not sure he has much room for growth unless Bush were to collapse.  Kasich plateaued in the DMR/Bloomberg poll at 2 points.  Kasich gained 2 points in the Monmouth poll since July and 2 points in the Loras College poll since April.  Kasich also struggles with name ID in Iowa and his favorability rating is nothing to write home about.  His favorable rating increased by 8 points from 25% to 33% since May in the DMR Poll.  The problem is his unfavorable rating also increased six points from 16% to 22%.  45% of Iowa Republicans are not sure about the guy.  There is opportunity there, but I suspect based on his record and policies when Iowa Republicans get to know him it likely won’t be positive.

Could Jindal be 2016’s dark horse candidate?

Jindal saw a 4 point drop since July in the Monmouth poll, but it seems to be the outlier poll of the three latest polls.  His polling is the same since April in the Loras College poll at 1 point.  He gained a point in the DMR/Bloomberg poll since May standing at 2 points.  Nothing to write home about, but when you look at the change in favorability ratings since May in the DMR/Bloomberg polling you notice what could be some momentum with the campaign.  In May his favorability rating was 43% (favorable)/19% (unfavorable).  In August his favorable rating jumped 18% to 61% and his unfavorable rating dropped to 18%.  This tells me that his name recognition is increasing and people like what they see and hear.

Also when Republicans were asked if they could ever support a candidate.  Jindal’s numbers were really good. 65 percent say they can see themselves voting for him, while just 20 percent say they could never vote for him. The 65 percent rating is the highest in the entire GOP field, and the 20 percent is among the lowest. He’s invested a lot in the state, he has had good attendance at his town hall meetings, and I suspect we are going to see his polling numbers move in a positive direction soon.

Closing thoughts:

This race is still very much in flux, a lot can happen this fall. In 2008 and 2012 the winner of the Iowa Caucus was polling toward the back of the pack in August. In 2012 it wasn’t evident Santorum had momentum in the polling until two weeks before the Iowa Caucus so a new frontrunner can literally come out of nowhere if you are just watching the polling.  Those candidates who spend more time in Iowa tend to finish better than they poll.  It’s important to see how often candidates are in the state and the numbers of people turning out to their events.  Ultimately the Iowa Caucus is about turnout.  Who has the best organization to turn out voters on Caucus night.  It requires more commitment than a primary so polling tends to be off.  So don’t think Donald Trump is a shoo in based on August polling.

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