It’s finally happened: Donald Trump has dropped to second place in some national polls.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Monday found retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on top of the Republican presidential field, with 29 percent of the vote, compared with 23 percent for business mogul Trump. This follows last week’s CBS News/New York Times survey, which had Dr. Carson up on Mr. Trump by four points, 26 to 22 percent.
True, Trump still leads in the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major surveys. But it’s a small margin of 1.3 percentage points, and his trend line points down, while Carson’s points sharply up. It’s almost inevitable that The Donald falls to second in this measure, too.
That would be huge. How is Trump going to handle life as a poll loser? After all, much of his political persona centers on winning. He’s mentioned his poll leads in virtually every political appearance since climbing to the top of the polling world.
Well, he’s probably got a plan to Make His Campaign Great Again. Based on his behavior in recent days, we’d guess this is what it includes:
Spin the numbers. Asked about Carson on Tuesday during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trump pointed out (rightly) that most of the phone calls made for the NBC/WSJ poll that shows him behind came before the most recent GOP debate.
“I think after the debate you’ll see something different,” Trump said.
Maybe. Trump’s fond of citing some less-than-rigorous online polls that judged him the winner of the chaotic CNBC debate rumble. In general, Trump does better in automated online surveys than in old-fashioned polls that involve pollsters actually calling people on the phone, as Philip Bump of The Washington Post points out. Those are the numbers he’ll probably be talking about in days to come.
Dial up the insults. Trump has targeted Carson in recent days with his patented harsh critiques. During his ABC interview Tuesday, The Donald said that Carson doesn’t have the temperament or the experience to be president.
“It’s not his thing,” Trump said of the neurosurgeon.
China’s a ferocious economic competitor and tough negotiating adversary, Trump said. The implication: The Chinese would roll over the gentle, soft-spoken Carson.
Trump also took aim at Marco Rubio, the more conventional candidate now rising in the polls. “I’m not a fan. I think he’s overrated,” Trump said.
Stage more events. On Tuesday, Trump also had a splashy release and autograph event for his new book, “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.” He boasted that some fans waited in line for 12 hours to score a signed copy of this 17-chapter campaign manifesto.
The cover features a glowering Trump visage. He looks angry enough to fire all the voters he sees. “That’s really got to be the picture because the book is explaining all that’s wrong with the country,” said Trump on Tuesday.
It’s probably a coincidence that the book came out just as Trump slipped in poll positioning. But it’s no accident that it came at a point when the newness of the Trump campaign would probably have lost its shine, and he’d need something fresh to re-attract the press.
Look for more such staged events to boost Trump’s already moon-high public profile. Gee, if only he’d host “Saturday Night Live.”...