In a new national poll, Donald Trump just got his best result yet — he's surged to an 11-point lead, leaving the rest of his Republican rivals in the dust.
Most of the new Washington Post/ABC News poll was taken before Trump's controversial remarks on John McCain's military service, so any impact those may have on the race aren't yet clear. But the celebrity mogul has now led three of the past four national polls, and his lead in this one is the largest any GOP presidential candidate has held in any national poll tracked by RealClearPolitics this year:
Again, it's important not to get carried away by this result. Trump is not going to win the nomination. Winning 24 percent of Republicans is impressive in a crowded field, but it's still very far away from a majority of the party. Additionally, Trump's polling surge resembles those of past "outsider" candidates known for saying provocative things, like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain — candidates who all eventually collapsed. GOP elites will go to the mattresses to stop Trump, who looks toxic in a general election, from being their nominee. Trump's candidacy may collapse well before the first ballots are cast, and even if it survives until then, the party will eventually find a non-Trump alternative to unify around.
Yet one risk inherent to that is that Trump could fund his own third-party candidacy — and this new poll finds that in a three-way race, Hillary Clinton would get 46 percent, Jeb Bush 30 percent, and Trump 20 percent.
Trump's decline could occur sooner, though, and some pundits are speculating that his statement that John McCain isn't really a war hero could repel GOP voters. "Support for Trump fell sharply on the one night that voters were surveyed following those comments," according to the Post's Dan Balz and Peyton Craighill, who added: "Although the sample size for the final day was small, the decline was statistically significant."
And even if Trump does somehow, in some way, defy the odds and end up the GOP nominee, this same poll shows that a clear majority of general election voters — 62 percent — "definitely would not" vote for Trump:
As for Trump's rivals, Scott Walker, with a post-announcement bump, comes in second here with 13 percent support, while Jeb Bush is just behind him with 12 percent. These aren't particularly strong results for the two candidates generally considered to be the most plausible GOP nominees.
But as I wrote last week, the real losers from Trumpmentum are all the other candidates in the race, who are less known and desperately need media attention. From Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz to Chris Christie, the GOP field is so crowded right now, with 15 candidates and two more expected to jump in soon, that the key challenge most contenders face is simply getting anyone to pay attention to them. And that's extremely difficult with Trump in the race, being covered obsessively by the media — and partially justifying that coverage by polling so strongly.