New polls: Has Donald Trump bubble burst?

Depending on how you crunch all the poll numbers for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, his trend line is essentially flat, or a slow decline.

Mic Smith/AP
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks at an event sponsored by the Greater Charleston Business Alliance and the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce at the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.

There’s a bunch of new national polls out this week, and Donald Trump’s numbers aren’t quite as luxurious as they used to be.

A CNN/ORC survey released Sunday showed Mr. Trump down eight percentage points since the beginning of September, from 32 to 24 percent. That’s still good for first in the GOP field, but Carly Fiorina has rocketed into second place in the CNN numbers, rising to 15 percent from 3 percent prior to the second Republican debate.

A Bloomberg Politics poll released Thursday had Trump lower, at 21 percent. That’s not a drop, though: It’s flat, the same number he had in a corresponding August survey. Ben Carson is second in this one, at 16 percent. Ms. Fiorina is third, with 11 percent (up from 1 percent in August).

A just-released Quinnipiac poll puts Trump at 25 percent, down a bit from 28 percent four weeks earlier. And a new Fox News survey puts him at 26 percent, up from 25 percent in late August. Both of these changes could be noise, since they’re within the pollsters’ margin of error.

Depending on how you crunch all Trump’s polls together, his trend line is essentially flat, or a slow decline. The rolling average of major surveys at RealClearPolitics shows Trump falling from a peak of 30.5 percent on Sept. 18 to 24 percent today. His overall lead hasn’t changed much, though, as second-place runner Dr. Carson has seen a similar dip in his RCP figure.

But he’s no longer going up. And if the shark isn’t moving forward, is it doomed? Has the collapse of The Donald’s presidential bid finally begun?

After all, there have been empty seats at some recent Trump rallies. In the Fox survey, respondents said by a 4-to-1 margin that Fiorina did better than Trump in the last debate. He was oddly subdued on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show.”

Some top pundits think this all adds up.

“Several new polls out all showing the same thing: Trump balloon slowly deflating,” tweeted New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza.

“Trump is now at war with just about anybody in sight – Fox News, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and now Marco Rubio, his critique of whom includes his youth and his propensity to perspire,” writes ABC News’s Rick Klein Thursday morning. “It suggests a potential inflection point in a GOP race Trump has owned virtually from the moment he got on that escalator.”

Hmm. The words “suggests” and “potential” in that statement could be key. We’d say it’s way too early to call an end to the Summer of Trump and declare Fall the season of Fiorina. The punditocracy has been overeager to predict Trump’s decline.

Remember when his dismissal of GOP Sen. John McCain’s hero status was going to end his campaign? Or how he was doomed due to his attack on Fox News personality Megyn Kelly?

We’ve learned our lesson. Trump has a core of hard support from voters who rally to his harsh anti-undocumented-immigrant rhetoric. A slight decline doesn’t automatically presage further drops. Trump could stay at this level for months to come.

Or he could indeed plummet. The point is that in politics, past results don’t always predict future performance. Trump’s not doomed just because he won’t keep rising up in the polls to somewhere near 100 percent support, writes the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore.

“ ‘[M]omentum’ in politics is an incredibly overrated and sometimes imaginary quality,” according to Mr. Kilgore.

And Trump remains a media magnet. At time of writing, four of the six most recent posts from The Washington Post “Fix” political blog dealt with Trump in some manner. Six of the seven top picks at the right-leaning Hot Air website have “Trump” somewhere in their headline. National Review’s “Corner” blog had posted twice on Trump before noon Thursday. You get the picture.

Trump has long operated his business empire on the theory that it is better to be the subject of negative reports than to be ignored. His presidential campaign may end up a lab experiment in the political utility of that theory.

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