Voters on both sides of the political aisle continue to voice their frustration with the status quo in U.S. politics. One might accurately describe the political climate for much of the country’s middle class as simply “fed up.”
According to the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll of likely caucus-goers, “91 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats surveyed said they were either ‘unsatisfied’ or ‘mad as hell’ about politicians.” As a result, the more outspoken presidential candidates who can tout “outsider” credibility have been the strongest performers for both the Republican and Democrat fields to this point in the primary process.
Will the “Summer Fling” with non-traditional or maverick candidates blossom into a Fall Infatuation, or will the current love affair fizzle out in favor of more conventional candidates when it comes time to name the party nominees?
Tango With Trump
The most obvious manifestation of America’s fatigue with “the same old” from the country’s political class has been the unlikely ascension of Donald J. Trump to the top of early GOP polls. (This follows the ouster of the Democrat’s majority in Congress in the 2014 midterm elections and the abysmal approval ratings for the nation’s lawmakers in general.) Mr. Trump has remained consistently ahead of his primary opponents with more than 20% support in multiple polls.
Moreover, other candidates pitching alternative narratives to the status quo—like conservative darling Ted Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on the right, and socialist Independent Bernie Sanders on the left—have remained strong in the polls as “name brand” candidates (Bush and Clinton) see their support wane.
How long these seemingly upside-down polling numbers stay intact is up for debate; what’s clear is that candidates like Carson, Sanders, and Cruz may have the potential to draw fresh blood into their party’s caucuses, attracting young constituents who would otherwise not participate in the political process. Carson is second in several GOP polls in Iowa, garnering around 18% of the vote, while Sanders continues to shrink the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton in the polls. In Iowa, Sanders is currently trailing Clinton by just 7 percentage points, 30% to 37%, after siphoning off about 1/3 of previous Hillary supporters thus far this summer.
Democrat Voters Shunning Hillary?
Although she has secured the most endorsements from other delegates in the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton’s campaign seems to be losing momentum. She continues to lose support in Iowa and New Hampshire to Sanders—a trend that many pollsters believe could be indicative of longer-term concerns over her viability in a general election that may carry into the autumn. In some polls, Sanders now does better against potential GOP rivals than does Clinton.
Interestingly enough, the surge for the likes of Cruz and Carson (and certainly for Trump) has pushed Scott Walker and Rand Paul to the sidelines for the most part. Both the Wisconsin governor (being dubbed in some circles as “Dead Man [Scott] Walker”) and senator from Kentucky were favorites among the anti-establishment sector of the Republican electorate coming into the campaign season, but are now polling in single digits as their would-be supporters flocked to Trump and, increasingly, Carson and Cruz.
Where the media was predicting that Walker and Paul would at some point absorb the Trump vote, it seems for the moment that the straight-shooting of Ben Carson and the liberty-centered approach of Ted Cruz are making these latter two candidates stronger options in the eyes of likely primary voters.