A new PPP poll released on Friday shows Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential primary race by much more than a hair.
In fact, the poll shows the brash real estate tycoon turned reality TV show host posting a large nine-point lead on the nearest competition. It’s the latest in a flurry of recent surveys to show the Donald running strong in the GOP field, but it’s the first to show him all alone at the front of the pack.
Trump garnered 26% of the vote, followed by Mike Huckabee (17%), Mitt Romney (15%), Newt Gingrich (11%), and Sarah Palin (8%.) Ron Paul earned 5%, while Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty took 4% each.
But despite Trump’s sudden sprint to the front of the field, his wide lead isn’t necessarily a sign of his strength so much as a sign of the weakness of the overall GOP field at this point.
As TPM noted earlier this week, only a handful of Republican candidates have strong name recognition, while others — notably Pawlenty, who is one of the few potential candidates to have already announced a presidential exploratory committee — are virtually unknown.
As for those well-known candidates, Republican voters aren’t exactly thrilled about them. In a recent CNN poll, 53% of Republicans said Palin should run for president, but nearly as many, 47%, said she should stay out of the race. And in a PPP poll last month, only 51% of Republicans viewed Romney favorably, while 50% had a favorable opinion of Gingrich.
That left a huge gap for a candidate with high name recognition, which Trump certainly has, to swoop in and peel support away from other contenders.
Also likely playing into Trump’s rise — his rapid cornering of the birther market. Through expressing intense, persistent skepticism about Obama’s citizenship — with cable news apparently happy to come along for the ride — Trump’s been able to quickly grab hold of that sizable part of the GOP base still committed to theories long since dismissed as conspiracy.
The PPP poll found a sizable birther base within the party, as 23% of respondents said they’d be “unwilling” to vote for any candidate who says Obama was born in the U.S. Additionally, only 38% said they would be willing to vote for such a candidate, while 39% were unsure.
There’s a long way to go before the first primary contest next year, and as more candidates enter the race and as such raise their profiles, the standings are sure to change.
But even at this early stage, a poll that shows such dominance by a figure whose flirtation with the presidency may be little more than mega-publicity stunt will make for uncomfortable reading for those casting themselves as more serious candidates — who, for now, find themselves staring up…at Trump.
The PPP poll was conducted April 7-10 among 400 Republican voters nationwide.