The “professional” pundits Wednesday night have had their say, but now it’s the voters’ turn and they couldn’t disagree more. The PPD Post Republican Debate Poll finds 58.5% thought frontrunner and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump won round two hosted by CNN at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlitt-Packard CEO and consensus winner among the political pundit class, came in a distant second with 18%.
“Once again, the so-called professional cable TV and network news pundits have been totally proven wrong,” said PPD’s senior political analyst Richard D. Baris. “While we are beginning to see some degree of fatigue with Donald Trump’s lack of specifics in a debate forum, teflon Don isn’t going anywhere. With the exception of Carly Fiorina, candidates who chose to attack the frontrunner did not come out ahead. In fact, despite Fiorina’s overall positive night, she exposed a not-so likable side of herself in some of the exchanges that didn’t sit too well with some of the panelists.”
PPD asked the following questions:
- “Who won the CNN Republican debate Wednesday night?”
- “Do you have a more favorable or less favorable view of [candidate’s name] after the debate?”
- “Do you view [candidate’s name] as a stronger or weaker leader after the debate?”
- “What word best describes [candidate’s name] performance, [Choice] or [Choice]?
(Choices: Genuine or Fake; Confident or Desperate)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tied with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for third place with 6% of voters saying each candidate won the CNN Republican debate. However, Gov. Christie exhibited the most positive change as it relates to voters’ before-and-after views of the candidates. Thirty-seven percent (37%) said they now hold a more favorable view of Gov. Christie than they did prior to and because of his performance. Further, 58% said Christie was “Genuine,” putting him only behind Trump (64%), Cruz (61%) and Dr. Ben Carson(60%).
“Christie had a big night,” Baris said. “And while it isn’t at all likely he will shoot to the front of the pack, he has really positioned himself to capitalize on the long-ball game. With Gov. Kasich having such a poor night, Christie just gave moderate New Hampshire primary voters a credible alternative to both Bush and Kasich.”
On strength, Ohio Gov. John Kasich saw a net negative change of 11.5%, with voters citing the exchange over whether or not to “tear up” the Iran deal between him and Sen. Cruz as the primary reason. On the flip side, Fiorina and Rubio saw the most positive shift on strength, with a 38% and 24.5% change following their performance, respectively. Carson, who has been running second in the most recent national and early state polling following his performance in the first Republican debate, took a 10-point hit on the question of strength.
“Beyond a doubt, Carson could not adequately answer his opposition to the Afghanistan war effort in the immediate period following the 9/11 terror attacks,” Baris added. “This really gave our panel pause, many of whom said they were not aware he had even taken such a position. My sense is that–even though Carson didn’t do much to hurt himself–he might have given voters a reason to take a second look at someone else. The good news for Carson is that he has the highest favorability rating out of any of the Republican candidates, and his new-found supporters mostly came from Gov. Scott Walker.”
Baris, who penned an op-ed prior to the debate outlining what Walker would have to do to get himself back on track, said the governor did not rise to the occasion he needed to in order to begin to peel these voters back from Carson or Fiorina, albeit the latter to a lesser extend.