Depending on a where you stand as a candidate, you’ll either point to the polls or the analysts. Rarely do they match this early in the race and the discrepancy can be huge. We tend to look towards the analysts this early for two reasons: the polls are based upon minimal information consumed by most voters that makes it basically a name-recognition contest, and the shifts in campaign momentum throughout a primary season requires an understanding of how these things flow.
If we looked at polls at the end of September to determine winners, Hillary Clinton would have own the Democratic nomination in 2008, Rudy Giuliani would have won the Republican nomination in 2008, and Rick Perry would have won the 2012 Republican nomination. Even if you concede that Perry blew his chances with his “oops” debate performance, Herman Cain was doing better in the polls than the eventual nominee.
The point is this: most Americans don’t understand the landscape of the primaries, the fundamentals of campaign funding, or the volatility of the voters at this early stage. The wildcard that most of the analysts (and by most, we mean all of the ones we’ve watched so far) have missed so far is the permanence of social media. This is why the majority of analysts were anticipating the Donald Trump’s campaign would sputter in July. Then August. Then September. Now, it’s apparently October, and it baffles them why he hasn’t fallen already.
Social media creates artificial loyalty. When people start spouting out about a particular candidate on social media, they’re put into a position of having to either explain themselves or eat crow if and when they change their minds. Trump hit social media harder than any other candidate, even harder than President Barack Obama did in his two elections. Now, he has people who might have dropped their support in the past when it was private, but now that everything’s public more people are all-in early on.
Still, the analysts are picking other candidates and we tend to agree. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are best positioned to be in for the long haul because of the fundraising they’ve done and the contrasts they present. Bush is a moderate pretending to be a conservative and Cruz is the most conservative of all the candidates. When the other players start to fall, their bases will choose between these two.
Trump has peaked. He has the highest poll ratings but he also has by far the highest “would never vote for” percentages. People either love him or hate him and when the haters watch their chosen candidates fall, they’ll go for the nearest alternative other than Trump. That will be Bush and Cruz, though Rubio and Carson are nicely positioned between them as possible alternatives.
There’s something that should be noted. We are very selective with the analysts we watch. While it’s impossible to be completely unbiased with any analysis, we can hear in the reasoning behind the predictions to see if they’re choices are based upon personal hopes or facts.
The polls are currently all about Trump because he’s the most well-known candidate. The analysts looking to the actual primaries see Bush or Cruz because the positioning is right for both of them despite drops in the polls. We’ll see who’s right next year.