Since the debate on Thursday night, it appears that Donald Trump has gotten pretty much what he wanted: aside from a little bit of talk about Carly Fiorina doing well enough to leapfrog someone and reach the top ten, the political conversation has been about The Donald.
But the problem is that Trump hasn’t been able to use this time or attention to expand his platform. Instead, he’s trying to create an “us vs. them” narrative against Fox News. It’s red meat to his legion of supporters.
That’s a strategy which works with the plethora of candidates in the race now, but invariably some will begin to fall away. And those at the bottom (for now I will exclude Carly Fiorina) probably don’t have a support base that would gravitate to Trump’s camp – Lindsey Graham backers may move to Marco Rubio, and those who support Jim Gilmore or George Pataki could be easily swayed into the John Kasich or Jeb Bush camps. Rick Santorum social conservatives are a natural fit for Mike Huckabee, and those who like Bobby Jindal or Rick Perry could slide over into the Scott Walker fold. With Donald Trump holding such high negatives, his ceiling is lower than most of the others.
Right now the field works in Trump’s favor – 25% looks really good in a 17-person race. But the polls I would like to see are the ones which would put him up against just the top five, eliminating the chaff of the bottom dozen. I suspect Trump would only be in the high 20s or low 30s given that situation, and as the field consolidates he would fall behind.
Admittedly, once we get down to a half-dozen Republicans there is a distinct possibility that polling on the GOP side could resemble the numbers Democrats post, where Hillary Clinton has always held a significant lead. I’m doubtful a Trump vs. Hillary race would be good for America in the long run, but it would be quite the spectacle as we irretrivably slid down the tubes.