The Republican primary won't be over for another year, and won't even start for another six months. Republicans should be thanking their lucky stars for that. Here's why:
New USA Today/Suffolk poll shows Trump leading GOP field nationally with 17 percent. Bush at 14, Walker 8, Cruz 6, Rubio 5 and so on.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 14, 2015
Meanwhile, Clinton leads Trump by 17 points (!!), 51 percent to 34 percent, per USA Today/Suffolk poll. Bush trails her by only 4 points.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 14, 2015
The USA Today/Suffolk poll actually tested how seven different Republican candidates would perform against Clinton. Trump comes off the worst, by far. (The next-worst, Ben Carson, trails Clinton by 13 points.)
Given Trump's populist appeal — both his billionaire-outsider persona and the fact that he's running a campaign on attacking immigrants, which is an issue on which many in the GOP base don't trust the party's leadership — it makes sense that the 17 percent of would-be primary voters who support him wouldn't care about "electability." If that trend held through the campaign — with the base supporting Trump as a way to stick it to the party's elite — that would be disastrous news for the GOP in the general election.
The good news for Republicans, though, is buried deeper in the poll. Donald Trump has by far the highest name recognition of any Republican candidate: Only 2 percent of respondents hadn't heard of him. (Compare that with the 27 percent of people who haven't heard of Scott Walker.) That supports the theory, as raised by Vox's Andrew Prokop, that what looks like Trumpmentum in the polls is partly just name recognition. Once Trump wilts under scrutiny — or once other candidates manage to cut through the noise and get their names out there — that 17 percent of potential primary voters who support Trump might wander elsewhere.