Is the Donald now a fake fake candidate? Donald Trump is leading the pack of Republican presidential candidates, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling. Trump is ahead of second-place Mike Huckabee by nine points--despite that fact that Huckabee has actually held elected office and gave a strong challenge to John McCain in the 2008 GOP primary. PPP's Tom Jensen writes that just 38 percent of Republican primary voters say they'd vote for someone who rejects birtherism--and most of those people are supporters of Mitt Romney. And 23 percent of Republican voters say they won't vote for anyone who's not a birther. Slate's Dave Weigel says this result "makes it harder and harder to pretend [Trump's] a non-factor in 2012."
The turmoil within the Republican Party has created these unusual conditions in which Glenn Beck says Trump makes him "uncomfortable," while the chair of the Republican National Committee calls him "credible." But Trump's the only candidate who's managed to capitalize on staying power of the conspiracy theory to win "the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011," Jensen explains, after months of "gridlock" among the top tier.
The poll finds support breaks down among the candidates like this:
Trump: 26 percent
Huckabee: 17 percent
Romney: 15 percent
Newt Gingrich: 11 percent
Sarah Palin: 8 percent
Ron Paul: 5 percent
Michele Bachmann: 4 percent
Tim Pawlenty: 4 percent
Jensen still doesn't think Trump will actually run, but he doesn't how a centrist like Romney or Pawlenty will sate the appetite of voters hungry for a candidate who appeals to birtherism. He argues that shows Republicans didn't learn anything from their defeat in two Senate races during the midterm elections: In Nevada and Delaware, very conservative candidates were unable to defeat very vulnerable Democrats even as Republicans made historic gains elsewhere.
For a little comparison to the last time a party was picking a candidate to take on an incumbent, back in the spring 2003, Joe Lieberman was ahead with 20 percent, John Kerry behind him with 17 percent. Just 2 percent of Democratic voters were backing anti-war candidate Dennis Kucinich, and 5 percent supported Howard Dean.