Anti-Establishment Candidates Dominate First Post-Debate Poll

Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate, August 11, 2011 (photo credit: IowaPolitics.com via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ripples from the GOP’s Cleveland debate continue to hit the political shores. Late Sunday, NBC News released the first post-debate poll. There is some controversy about the poll’s methodology, and we’ll have to wait and see if other polls confirm the results. But when voters were asked who they would support if the election were held today, the results were:

  • Donald Trump: 23%
  • Ted Cruz: 13%
  • Ben Carson: 11%
  • Carly Fiorina: 8%
  • Marco Rubio: 8%
  • Jeb Bush: 7%
  • Scott Walker: 7%
  • Mike Huckabee: 5%
  • Rand Paul: 5%

No other candidate received at least 5% support.

Political analysts were puzzled by the results, but I think I see a pattern. Let’s see if you agree.

Trump is the epitome of the anti-politician. He doesn’t waiver, he isn’t politically correct. He erupted on the scene a few weeks ago on two issues: illegal immigration and his disdain for the political class of both parties.

In second place is Sen. Ted Cruz, widely despised by the GOP leadership for forcing a government shutdown and for recently taking to the Senate floor to accuse Senator Mitch McConnell of lying to him and other senators. Cruz, too, is angry at the avalanche of illegal immigration.

Next is Dr. Ben Carson, an incredibly decent Christian man with zero elective experience. He is unambiguously pro-life, but clearly not taken seriously by Washington’s political class.

Tied for fourth place are Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Fiorina catapulted into “prime time” from the “happy hour” second-tier debate largely due to a blistering critique of Hillary Clinton’s record of lies and deception.

So what do these candidates have in common?

Bombastic Trump, sharp-edged conservative intellect Cruz, soft-spoken pro-life Dr. Carson, and female warrior Fiorina — none of them are the choice of the GOP establishment. Yet, combined they are pulling more than half of the Republican vote because of each of them, in their own way, reflect the rejection of “business as usual.”

Even Senator Rubio has a record of defying the establishment. He is in the Senate because he challenged the establishment’s choice of former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who is now a Democrat. Rubio overcame a 31-point deficit in the primary polling and won a three-way general election by double digits.

And what about the candidate EVERYONE said would clearly be the nominee — Jeb Bush? The NBC poll shows him at only 7% — in spite of having one of the best known names in American politics.

Tongues are wagging about Trump’s antics in Cleveland. But no one is talking about Bush’s performance because it was unremarkable in every way. Lacking was evidence of the one thing that at least half the country is waiting for — courage and passion in defense of conservative ideas.

Gary L. Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration for eight years, as Under Secretary of Education and as President Reagan’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor.