Trump soars in new poll. Will his Fiorina 'face' slam stop momentum?

To this point, there is no evidence that any single outrageous comment from Trump makes any difference in his poll standing. He's now the choice of nearly 1 in 3 GOP voters. 

John Minchillo/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (l.) and Fox News Channel host and moderator Megyn Kelly during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena, in Cleveland on Aug. 6, 2015. Trump has been attacking Kelly ever since her tough questioning of him during the debate.

Donald Trump’s momentum continues to roll along. He’s now the presidential nominee choice of 32 percent of Republican voters, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. That’s a new statistical high for him in an individual survey.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was second, at 19 percent. Do the addition – that means that 51 percent of the GOP is behind the nonpolitician outsiders, at the moment. Jeb Bush is in single digits in the CNN numbers, at 9 percent. He’s fallen off by four points since August. That’s a low-energy performance.

Does this mean anything? Not really – not yet. Yes, it’s boring when all the pundits mention new poll results and then downplay them. But at this point, the polls are about as statistically firm as pre-season sports power rankings. Back in April, the Washington Nationals were a consensus pick to make the World Series, remember. Then real life intervened. Now they’re also-rans.

The new CNN survey's own numbers show how such a fall translates to politics.

One question the pollsters asked was who respondents think will win the GOP nomination, regardless of who they support. Right now that’s Trump. Forty-one percent of those polled think he’s going to win. But the poll includes past results for comparison. And at this same moment in the last election cycle, early September of 2011, a plurality of 41 percent of the GOP thought Texas Gov. Rick Perry would be the nominee.

Then came Perry’s “oops” memory slip in a debate. By December of 2011, only four percent of GOP voters thought he’d be the eventual nominee.

That said, you’ll notice we said that Trump’s latest results aren’t indicative “yet." And “yet” is coming up fast. It gets late early out there, as Yogi Berra said.

The CNN/ORC poll is Trump’s strongest yet, but it is not far off from the rolling average of national surveys at RealClearPolitics. So it’s not as if it’s an outlier.

And it revealed several interesting aspects of Trump’s support.

First, he’s gaining strength among women. He’s up 13 points among female voters since August, a substantially larger increase than the comparable figure for men. His support among women overall is 33 percent and among men, 31 percent. What about his dismissive comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly? Weren’t they supposed to hurt his standing among women?

Maybe the latest contretemps about his negative words on Carly Fiorina’s appearance will make a difference. But to this point there is no evidence that any single outrageous comment from Trump makes any difference in his poll standing.

Second, illegal immigration is an issue that’s becoming more crucial in GOP voters’ eyes. In June, 30 percent of Republicans polled said it was “extremely important." The comparable figure for September is 39 percent.

We’d say that’s a Trump effect. He’s raising its salience in voters' eyes. Is that an indication his poll numbers will persist at this level, unlike Perry’s?

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