GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump surprised pundits this week by emerging near the top of a New Hampshire poll, second only to Jeb Bush.
The survey, conducted by Suffolk University, shows that Mr. Trump collected 11 percent of the votes after Mr. Bush’s 14 percent.
Analysts attribute Trump’s advance to his broad name recognition in a field brimming with nearly 20 Republican candidates, aided by a successful global empire of long-running reality television shows and luxury hotels.
“Trump’s obvious appeal is that he’s a winner,” wrote political commentator Matt K. Lewis.
Bush, former Florida governor and a frequently projected frontrunner, has family ties to New England, The New York Times reported.
“Jeb Bush continues to lead, but Donald Trump has emerged as an anti-Jeb Bush alternative in New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Many of those who like Trump are voting for him, and although many more dislike him, the unfavorables are split up among many other candidates. It’s the politics of plurality.”
But results also indicate that Trump’s numbers dropped when voters were asked who should take the stage for GOP debates, and experts advise that the poll be taken with a grain of salt, given its proximity from New Hampshire’s GOP primary in early 2016.
“It’s true that Trump did indeed take second place in that poll. But it’s also true that nationally Trump’s polling has been on the decline, and that his favorability numbers aren’t hot in New Hampshire,” wrote Politico reporter Daniel Strauss.
A Fox News poll released Wednesday follows a similar narrative as the one in New Hampshire. Once again, Bush leads the list of Republican contenders at 15 percent, and Trump follows second at 11 percent. "The bad news for Trump is that only 29 percent of GOP primary voters consider him a serious candidate," reported Fox News. "Among all registered voters, nearly 8 in 10 say Trump is a side show."
One possible reason? 64 percent of voters say they don't trust the billionaire, according to Fox News.
In an average of recent poll numbers calculated by Real Clear Politics – a measure of all the GOP nominees’ national popularity – Trump comes in tenth, slightly below Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and one place above New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The Donald has been trumpeting his sharp ascent and critiquing reporters in response to these headlines, tweeting his “respect” for those who have substantiated his rise in poll numbers and calling out the ones who appeared more questionable.
Another reason for Trump’s political appeal has been his shunning of public office thus far. On Twitter, he thanked a user who said she was supporting him for not being “a Washington insider,” and sneered at Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland for being a “politician.”
Since announcing his presidential campaign last week, Trump has repeatedly vocalized a belief that the country needs him more than he needs it, maintaining a steelier than ever veneer of self-confidence and aggrandizement as he continued to make controversial comments, including one that implied most Mexican immigrants were drug-traders or rapists.
While Bloomberg reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann credited Trump’s popularity in New Hampshire to his “xenophobic” rhetoric – pointing to an electorate "that is begging for this message" – Fusion host Jorge Ramos called Trump “the Hispanic community’s most hated man.”
The Washington Post questioned Wednesday whether Trump is the “honey badger of American politics,” describing his demeanor at the GOP’s annual Red, White, and Blue fundraiser as he told the crowd that he hadn’t initially wanted to come and used a wet wipe after taking pictures with “VIP” supporters.
“He talks like he just don't care, people laugh, and none of it seems to hurt him,” wrote Post reporter Josh Hicks.