Trump is still soaring. Here’s why
Political analysts warn that the very traits that have rocketed Trump to the top of the polls – like his candor – can backfire.
He's done it again.
Despite his histrionics, his inflammatory comments about immigrants and veterans, and his complete lack of political experience, Donald Trump, the gold-plated dark horse candidate, has topped another poll.
The latest Quinnipiac poll, out Thursday, has Mr. Trump leading the 2016 race as the top choice for 20 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, a coup some have called a political earthquake.
"Not unimpressive,'' Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute once said, "for someone new to electoral politics.''
How has Trump – whose entry few took seriously – suddenly become a leading presidential contender? Here are 3 reasons:
He strikes a chord with angry, disaffected voters
The enthusiastic response to Trump's populist, occasionally xenophobic, rhetoric, has revealed the depth of alienation among many in the GOP base.
"There's some pent-up frustration in the population right now that's ready to explode," New Hampshire voter Bert Hansen told CNN. "That's why Trump's doing so well."
Some 53 percent of GOP voters say they don't feel their views are well represented in Washington, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll. This group of disaffected voters is far more likely to back Trump's run for the White House, with a solid 24 percent supporting him.
More than any other contender in the field, Trump has tapped into the fears and frustrations of some Americans, especially older, white men.
He is fearless and candid
Trump hasn't just tapped into Americans' frustrations – he is articulating them boldly.
New Hampshire supporters told a Bloomberg focus group that explored Trump's appeal that the outspoken celebrity "says it like it is,” and "speaks the truth.”
"He says what everyone else thinks but is afraid to say because they want to be politically correct,'' New Jersey Republican Barbara Cope told USA Today.
Which explains why Trump's comments about illegal immigrants – he famously referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals" – did not appear to hurt him in the polls.
A recent survey backs this up: Among Republican voters who say it's extremely important that the next president stand up for his or her beliefs even in the face of criticism, Trump is practically a runaway winner, reports CNN, with 25 percent supporting him – compared with 11 percent behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and 10 percent backing Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker.
His business acumen gives him an outsider status
At a time when politicians are not trusted and Congress is considered broken, Trump, with his gold-plated empire and storied billions, looks like a successful outsider who can fix Washington.
"I was a little girl, and I didn't even know what Trump Towers were, but I knew that he was a wealthy, successful man and I remember asking my mother if I could write him a letter to ask him how he made his money," one participant named Jessica told the Bloomberg focus group.
"I'm a successful businessman, not a politician," says Trump, who claims to be worth precisely $8,737,540,000, on the stump.
And his campaign theme – "Make America Great Again" – suggests he can fix a country that's gone off-course. (That message is so popular that the $20 baseball cap emblazoned with it has sold out.)
The polls highlight his outsider appeal. Among those who say it's key that the president is not a typical politician, 23 percent support Trump, compared to 14 percent for Mr. Bush and 13 percent for Mr. Walker, according to CNN. Similarly, among those who want to change the way Washington works, 23 percent back Trump, compared to 16 percent for Bush, and 10 percent for Walker.
But political analysts warn that the very traits that have rocketed Trump to the top of the polls – like his candor – can backfire.
Participants in the Bloomberg focus group said Trump sometimes crosses the line, describing him with words like "hothead," "inappropriate," and "disrespectful."
And while most articles trumpet his heady lead in the latest poll, fewer reveal the flip side: Trump is also one of the most disliked contenders in the race. An early NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 74 percent of Republican primary voters said they could not support him.
Not surprisingly, more than seven out of 10 registered Hispanic voters said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, according to a Univision News poll.
"Primary season is when people get to vent their feelings,'' Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll, told USA Today. As the general election approaches, more pragmatic, moderate candidates tend to replace the more extreme or outspoken ones.
Which is why many predict Trump, like his GOP predecessors Herman Cain or Michelle Bachmann in 2012, is nothing more than a summer sensation who will fizzle out by fall.