Trump Is Well Ahead As First Debate Looms

The FINANCIAL -- Going into the first Republican debate of the primary season next week, it looks like Donald Trump, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are guaranteed seats.

They’re the three leaders in Rasmussen Reports' first national survey of Likely Republican Voters. After that, it gets a lot murkier, according to the Rasmussen Reports.

Trump, the GOP presidential hopeful who has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, is well ahead with 26% support among Republicans. Walker, the Wisconsin governor best known for standing up to labor unions in his state, runs second with 14% support. Bush, a former Florida governor and the third member of his family to seek the presidency, is the first choice of 10%.

Among the 13 remaining major Republican candidates, their levels of support are: Texas Senator Ted Cruz (7%); former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (7%); Florida Senator Marco Rubio (5%); retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (5%); Ohio Governor John Kasich (5%) and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (3%).

Four candidates earn two percent (2%) support each - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Governor George Pataki each pick up one percent (1%) of the Republican vote.

Fox News which is conducting the first debate next Thursday, August 6, is limiting the A-stage to the 10 candidates with the best poll numbers, so by our count that’s Trump, Walker, Bush, Cruz, Huckabee, Rubio, Carson, Kasich, Paul and one of the four two-percenters.

In mid-June when several candidates still had not yet declared, 53% of Republicans wanted all the challengers on the debate stage at the same time, while 39% wanted to limit the number appearing. Fox is having a shorter second debate with the candidates who are second-tier poll-wise.

The national telephone survey of 471 Likely Republican Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on July 26-27, 2015. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Fieldwork for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

As each candidate formally announced in recent weeks, Rasmussen Reports asked Republican voters what they think of the candidate and how they rate his or her chances to be the party’s nominee next year. Bush is seen as having the best shot, with 56% who see him as the likely nominee, but his last name is a drawback for some.

Here’s how all the presidential hopefuls stack up so far.

At this early stage of the game, however, name recognition is key, and the headlines Trump has been making in recent weeks have undoubtedly helped push him to the top of the heap.

Trump, Walker and Bush are the leaders in virtually every demographic category among likely Republican voters.

Trump’s support climbs to 30% among voters who think Republicans in Congress are out of touch with GOP voters nationwide. Among those who think the new Congress is doing a good job representing the party base, Trump is in a virtual tie with Bush – 21% to 20%.

Trump has taken a lot of criticism from Democrats and other Republican presidential hopefuls over his remarks about the criminality of many illegal immigrants, but 76% of Republicans think Trump is right.

Senator John McCain has been an outspoken critic of Trump, so how do GOP voters feel about the two men these days?

Relations between establishment Republicans and conservatives suggest the GOP is on the brink of civil war.