Following the first GOP primary debate, much of the news was about former President Donald Trump and his balking at the idea of sharing the stage with other candidates. This decision as well as the statement that he would be boycotting all the debates was the main headline.
For the candidates who had participated, this was a major blow to their election hopes. No matter how good they felt about their chances or their responses in the debate, seeing Trump steal the headlines just is not the response they wanted, even though it was expected. Yet a survey taken on August 25-26 by Emery College uncovered some tough truths for these candidates.
When polled about the GOP candidates for President, Trump took a whopping 50% of the vote. This astronomical figure is only made more impressive by the fact that the closest person is FL Governor Ron DeSantis. Only generating 12% of responses, he is down by 38%, one of the largest margins for a primary debate in history. Vivek Ramaswamy rounds out the podium with 9% of the responses.
Despite the magnificent lead, Trump is also down 6% from the week before, and DeSantis climbed by 2 points.
Executive Director of Emerson College Polling Spencer Kimball said this shift brings about an important question for the election. “While Trump saw a slight dip in support, the question from this poll is whether this is a blip for Trump or if the other Republican candidates will be able to rally enough support to be competitive for the caucus and primary season.”
Given the unprecedented times we are in with Trump facing charges, Emerson College Polling also asked respondents about how they would vote if Trump was removed from the ballot. A fair question to be asking given the situation. They could only consider those who have stepped onstage in Milwaukee for this response.
The poll revealed “When presented with a Republican Primary ballot test with only the debate stage candidates, 30% of voters would support DeSantis, followed by Ramaswamy at 25%, Pence at 16%, and Haley at 12%. Christie (8%), Scott (5%), Hutchinson (3%) and Burgum (3%) round out the field. Kimball notes, “When Trump is removed from the GOP ballot test, his voters split between DeSantis at 32% and Ramaswamy at 29%, with Pence at 16% — which suggests if Trump was to not run, a race between DeSantis and Ramaswamy could take shape.”
With 1,000 registered voters and a +/- 3% margin of error, this is a small but serious sample size to be taking numbers from. Many of these respondents are not only willing to stick behind their choices, but as this survey uncovered, 57% felt locked in on their votes, and unwilling to be swayed. This was a 5% drop from a week before.
As far as actually winning the debate, those numbers are a lot closer. Ramaswamy took 27%, 21% for DeSantis, and Pence swept up third with 12%. Mind you, 20% of the Republicans surveyed said nobody won the debate at all. This number is important to keep in mind because they are the least willing to concede that anyone but Trump could win. For them, the debates are nothing more than running for Vice President.
While an important position, with Trump on the campaign trail against Biden, and then in office, this would be resigning themselves to being in someone else’s shadow for four years. They could guarantee no more than that as a VP as Trump could only do one term.
Ultimately, it’s resigning themselves to being the Ringo Starr of the US. Sure, you still get to be a Beatle, but you’re little more than a question on Jeopardy afterward.