Is Donald Trump actually Jeb Bush's secret weapon?

On Tuesday, a new survey from USA Today/Suffolk University finds Donald Trump on top of the GOP field of contenders, with 17 percent of the vote. Jeb Bush is second with 14 percent.

Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress via AP
Republican presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump talks to reporters during the grand opening of the Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery Tuesday, July 14, 2015 outside Charlottesville, Va.

On one level, Donald Trump’s had a rough start to the week. There is the threat he’s allegedly received from escaped Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Then on Tuesday, he accidentally tweeted a patriotic image of his face superimposed on marching Nazi soldiers.

We’re not making that Nazi thing up. It was a graphic arts mistake and hardly noticeable. The tweet’s since been deleted. It’s not as if anybody actually thinks Mr. Trump supports Nazism in the United States.


But as we said, that’s one level. Then there’s his standing in the polls. Maybe you’ve heard that he’s doing pretty well there. On Tuesday there's more evidence of that, as a new survey from USA Today/Suffolk University finds him on top of the GOP field of contenders, with 17 percent of the vote. Jeb Bush is second with 14 percent. (Technically this is a tie, since the three-point differential is within the poll's margin of error.)

Look, it’s early yet. Just ask President Michele Bachmann. (No, we know she isn’t – she had her own moment in the poll sun a year prior to the actual 2012 election, however.)

And one poll doesn’t make a front-runner. The RealClearPolitics rolling average still has Mr. Bush in front, with 17 percent of the vote to Trump’s 10.8 percent.

Despite the ephemeral nature of polls at this point, we had a little fun with these numbers. We took the RCP rolling average from 30 days ago, and the latest figures, and then calculated the increase or decrease in standing. That shows an interesting phenomenon: Only two candidates have risen in that time. The rest have all fallen.

The two that have risen are Trump and Bush.

It’s true. RCP has Trump up a whopping 170 percent over 30 days. But Bush has gone up 50 percent. Meanwhile, Scott Walker’s dropped 12 percent. Marco Rubio’s dropped 32 percent. Ted Cruz is down 30 percent, Chris Christie is down 41 percent, and so forth.

The tentative conclusion from this is obvious: Trump’s stealing votes from everyone except Bush. This has the effect of shielding Bush from the other contenders. So Trump’s candidacy at this point is helping the rival that he (Trump) probably berates most on the stump.

As we said, the numbers are almost notional at this point, so we wouldn’t nail this analysis to the wall. But what if Trump turns out to be Bush’s secret weapon?

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