Donald Trump surges in early national polls — but so did Herman Cain

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Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
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Recent polls have Donald Trump smiling. (Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

A month after announcing his presidential bid, Donald Trump’s popularity is surging, with the real estate mogul leading the crowded field of candidates for the Republican nomination in a new national poll.

According to the results of a Suffolk University/USA Today survey released Wednesday, Trump has 17 percent support among voters who say they plan to participate in the Republican primary elections or caucuses. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is second, at 14 percent, though the 3-point differential is within the poll’s margin of error, meaning Trump and Bush are in a statistical tie.

“Trump is making daily headlines in advance of the primary season,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in a statement accompanying the poll’s release. “This has vaulted him to the top of the pack on the backs of conservative voters.”

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Trump has come under fire for inflammatory comments in which he vowed to build a wall between Mexico and the United States to keep Mexican criminals and “rapists” from crossing the border if he were elected president.

“They are bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they are rapists,” Trump said in a speech at his campaign launch.

NBC, Univision and Macy’s cut ties with Trump over the remarks, and fellow Republicans, including Bush and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have distanced themselves from Trump’s “dangerous” rhetoric. But the comments have elevated Trump among far-right GOP voters, fueling his surge in the polls.

According to the results of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday, positive views of Trump have doubled since his controversial comments on immigration. Thirty-three percent of Americans now view Trump favorably, up from 16 percent in late May and just five percentage points behind Bush, who is viewed favorably by 38 percent.

That Trump is gaining ground, particularly in national polls, shouldn’t be too surprisingly at this stage — “outsider” candidates tend to receive early support among American voters regardless of their electability.

During the months leading up to 2012 Republican primary, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain leading the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

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Herman Cain speaks in 2011. (Photo: Tony Jones/AP)

According to the October 2011 survey, Cain was the first choice of 27 percent of Republican voters in the poll, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (23 percent), then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (16 percent), then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul (11 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8 percent), then-Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (5 percent) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (3 percent). (An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in August of that year found Cain had just 5 percent support among likely GOP voters.)

In follow-up interviews, Cain’s supporters told pollsters they liked him because, among other things, he wasn’t a politician. The Suffolk University/USA Today pollsters heard a similar refrain from those who said they would vote for Trump.

During the lead-up to the 2008 GOP primary, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani held a sizable lead on the rest of the Republican pack. He wound up dropping out of the race after disappointing results in early caucuses and primaries. (In Iowa, Giuliani finished sixth out of seven candidates.)

More troubling for Trump — and, by proxy, for the rest of the GOP — should be how unfavorably Hispanics now view him.

According to the ABC News/Washington Post survey, 81 percent of Latino voters view Trump negatively, up 21 percent from May. Bush, who has disavowed Trump’s immigration comments, is up 14 points among Hispanics.

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Meanwhile, the Suffolk University/USA Today survey has both Bush and Trump trailing Hillary Clinton in a potential general election matchup. Bush, the strongest of any GOP candidates in a head-to-head against Clinton, trails the former secretary of state by four points nationwide (46 percent to 42 percent). Trump (34 percent) trails Clinton (51 percent) by 17 points.