ALERT ALERT *sound of an air raid siren slowly whirring to life* ALL HANDS ALL HANDS
Donald Trump is in second place in polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally.
The New Hampshire poll is from last week, but the Iowa and national polls are new, from Quinnipiac and CNN/ORC, respectively. To be fair, Trump is only tied for second in Iowa, with the ever-resilient Ben Carson.
Where's his support coming from? The charts below compare the new polls from each outfit to their last. Any dot above the diagonal line is doing better than the previous poll -- the further from the line, the better -- and any dot beneath the line is doing worse.
So nationally, Trump and Jeb Bush are both doing far better than in the last CNN/ORC survey taken in May. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are doing worse. In Iowa, Trump, Carson and Bush are doing better. Scott Walker is doing slightly worse; Rubio and Mike Huckabee are doing worse than that.
What do we make of this? First, we should point out that many pollsters didn't ask about Trump a month ago, because they were used to his saying that he would run and then not doing so. His brash claim to the Des Moines Register a month ago that his support would jump when he announced was actually somewhat correct. His poll numbers were low, he said, "because they don't think I'm running. When they think I'm running, they go through the roof." This ain't "through the roof," but it's up.
A few months ago, we suggested people chill out about the Rubio boomlet because it was tied to his having just announced. Here's the graph we made then, similar to the one above. It shows how Rubio's standing in national Quinnipiac polling changed from March to April.
Rubio had recently announced, which explained his jumping from five to 15 points in the national polls -- up 10 points, just like Donald Trump. We also noted that there were two other people above the line: Cruz and Rand Paul. Both of them had recently announced, too.
You might notice in the new polling above a nice jump in support for another recent entrant to the official Republican field, gentleman by the name of Bush. He's the other one who is doing noticeably better in both polls. People announce, people look at them, their numbers go up, etc. It's not uniform, but it's not a new, amazing phenomenon.
The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza points out that Trump's support in the two states and nationally is unusual, which is true. But it's likely that there's another factor overlaid here. Some of what's happening in this race so far is name recognition. People know the names Trump, Bush, and Carson, subject of a famous book and a made-for-TV movie. People aren't paying much attention to the race yet, and asked to pick someone, some will lean toward the person they've heard of. Most people probably haven't heard much about Trump's bizarre battle with NBC and Univision! There's a lot of time left.
Which leads us to our Trump card, so to speak: "A new poll puts real estate mogul Donald Trump in second place in the GOP presidential field," ABC News wrote, "just behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee." That was in April 2011, when Trump had the support of 17 percent of the Republican electorate. A poll a few weeks later put him at 26 percent support. Now, four years later, he's got only 12 -- despite his celebrity. Part of that may be the wider field pulling away support, but that wider field serves to make his much-smaller 12 percent of support look bigger. Twelve percent in that latter 2011 poll would have been good enough for fourth place.
Our eternal reminder: Polls are like snapshots of a horse race. Early polls are like photographs taken right after the horses leave the gates. They tell you something; if a horse has stumbled badly, you can often count him out. But it is almost certainly not going to tell you who's going to win.
Especially when you're talking about a horse who's run before and ended up dropping out before the first turn.