GOP scoffs at Trump surge
© Getty Images

Republicans in New Hampshire are shrugging their shoulders and rolling their eyes at Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE’s surge in the polls in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

They believe the Trump bump is nothing more than name recognition at an early stage in the cycle, and argue “The Apprentice” host is merely benefitting from wire-to-wire media coverage of his presidential launch.

“If they listed [Red Sox slugger] David Ortiz as a choice, a percentage would say they would vote for him too,” said former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen.


“This is probably his ceiling,” said New Hampshire GOP strategist Tom Rath, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.
He and others point to Trump’s high negatives as evidence the polling burst will be short-lived.

“The number of people who view him unfavorably are way higher than those who view him favorably,” Rath said.
GOP doubters also argue that it’s too early for the polls to be predictive of the eventual outcome in a state with a reputation for gravitating towards mainstream conservatives.

“It’s meaningless,” said former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a contributor for The Hill. “At this time, the polls have about as much meaning as someone’s prediction of what the weather will be like on this date in 2017.”

Still, Trump’s bounce has been striking, and sets him apart from the other Republican contenders. So far, only retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has seen a spike in the polls that is comparable to what Trump is presently enjoying.

Two polls released this week showed Trump surging into second place among Republican candidates in New Hampshire, a critical early-voting state where a handful of GOP contenders will be staking their election hopes.

In both polls, Trump trails only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He has rocketed past top tier candidates like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joins CBS News as contributor Trump: Bolton 'was holding me back' on Venezuela MORE (Fla.) in the Granite State.

According to the CNN-WMUR poll, voters in New Hampshire say Trump is best equipped among all of the Republican candidates to handle the economy. Republicans in the poll ranked Trump second on the question of who would be the best leader, and second on who would be strongest on illegal immigration.

“For a lot of voters, Trump checks quite a few boxes,” said GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway. “He’s outside of politics, speaks his mind, and has been a successful job creator. The question for him in the long run is whether the salacious sound bites will translate into votes.”

Trump has been a magnet for controversy since entering the race.

In his launch speech, Trump said illegal immigration was turning the U.S into a “dumping ground,” and he accused Mexico of sending drugs, crime and rapists into the country.

The comments provoked what has turned into a high-profile fight with Univision, one of the largest Latino-focused news outlets in the country, over a beauty pageant.

Democrats are giddy over Trump’s emergence, believing he’ll damage the GOP brand among minorities and debase the presidential debate more broadly.

So far, most Republicans are not publicly expressing that worry. They say the deep field of candidates will ultimately overshadow Trump’s antics. Some are even arguing that Trump’s candidacy could end up as a net positive for the party.

“If anything, he brings some folks into the fold who might not otherwise show an interest in politics,” said Gregg. “He speaks to an entirely different group of folks and it will be good for us to get those people tuning in.”

Still, the general consensus is that Trump’s bounce will fizzle as Republicans get a closer look at him and the other options in the field at large.

 Trump consistently posts the worst favorability ratings in the field, and almost always tops the list of candidates that Republicans say they will not even consider voting for.

And if Trump’s spike endures, Republicans believe the attention will shift from his antics to his record; a vetting they believe he will not survive.

Trump is a former Democrat and has a long history of promoting liberal causes. So far, the fiscally conservative group Club for Growth has been one of the few conservative groups aggressively attacking Trump on policy issues.

The Club has sought to call attention to Trump’s support for universal healthcare, which has reemerged as a top issue among conservatives in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld federal subsidies under ObamaCare.

Trump has also called for a one-time across-the-board tax on millionaires, and has supported higher taxes on goods imported into the country. 

“Trump is famous and famous people will always get a certain level of attention, but that doesn’t convert into winning a primary here,” Rath said.  “This too shall pass.”