The Poll From Hell

It seems we’re having to constantly make exceptions to the “don’t pay attention to early horse-race numbers” rule that even a data enthusiast like me accepts. Last week the announcement by Fox News and CNN that poll standing would determine access to the first two presidential debates (quite literally for Fox, though CNN is planning a sort of JV or kiddie-table debate as a consolation prize) in August and September suddenly made certain surveys highly relevant. And now a new survey from Quinnipiac, one of the outfits whose polling appears to meet the standards set by Fox News for use in screening candidates, has guaranteed itself special attention because it so perfectly reflects the lack of any front-runner in the gigantic GOP field. Dig it:

There are five leaders – or no leaders – as Republican voters look at likely GOP candidates in the 2016 White House race, with no candidate above 10 percent and 20 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.

Leading the pack with 10 percent each are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

Wow. A five-way tie. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.

Rounding out the top 10 for televised debates are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 7 percent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 6 percent, Donald Trump at 5 percent, New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie at 4 percent and Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent each.

Now here’s some grounds for joy among party elites: Carlymania is breaking out! They might not have to cook the books to get her on that debate stage! But there’s an large downside for the Establishment, too: this poll would put Donald Trump in, while excluding three of the conservatives expected to cut into the votes of Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz–Jindal, Perry and Santorum. Unless there’s something about the data that leads these gents to discount it as unlikely to be reflected in later polls, we’re going to start hearing (actually, we started hearing it yesterday from Jindal) hysterical screeching from the Ricks and Bobby J.

On top of everything else, this Q-Poll shows Hillary Clinton defeating all comers in a general election, with a ten point lead over Jeb Bush and an eight point lead over Scott Walker (Paul and Rubio get closest to HRC, trailing by 3 and 4 points, respectively).

All in all, I’d guess most Republicans would like to roll over and go back to sleep this morning and awaken to discover this poll was a bad dream.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.