Don’t mean to make this another festive Trump Gazing day, but I’m just writing about what pops up.

Among the many Republican Establishment/MSM rationalizations used to ignore or dismiss Donald Trump’s standing in the early polls is the perfectly logical belief that once the field has been “winnowed” to a more manageable level, he’ll still be sitting around with his 20% or so and will get smoked by (JEB! JEB!) the surviving “Establishment” favorite. Indeed, the idea is so prevalent that Steve Waldman’s thought experiment at TMS last week on how Trump might win was based on the idea that Super-PACs might prevent the normal winnowing, letting the single most popular candidate in a large field win primaries by pluralities.

But are we so certain Trump’s toast against a much smaller field of rivals? PPP did something very valuable in its latest poll of NC: creating several one-on-one trial heats between Trump and other GOP candidates. And sure enough, Rubio would lead Trump 51/43; Walker would lead Trump by an almost identical 50/43; and Ben Carson, who is benefiting from ignorance of his views, would lead Trump 59/35.

On the other hand: Trump would lead the “real frontrunner” according to most “insiders,” Jeb Bush, 50/42.

A lot could obviously happen while “winnowing” is occurring, and there’s no reason to assume Trump will wind up in a clean one-on-one matchup with one and only one of the three “first tier” candidates PPP tested against him. But again: it should be disturbing to Team Jeb that he can’t even beat Trump one-on-one in a fairly typical GOP state electorate.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.