Tie Game: Trump Joins Bush at Top of the Polls

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After weathering an intense firestorm of controversy, Donald Trump appears to have found a receptive audience among conservative Republicans. His business deals may be vanishing with every passing day, but Trump has certainly struck a chord with millions of Americans who believe the time is right for a tough approach to illegal immigration. The question now is whether he can maintain this momentum through the debates and beyond.

According to the latest Reuters-Ipsos poll, Trump enjoys the support of 15.8 percent of self-identified Republicans nationwide. That puts him almost even with Jeb Bush, who is currently polling at 16.1 percent. In fact, the two scores are right on the edge of the margin of error, meaning that Trump is – for right now, anyway – tied for numero uno among the Republican primary candidates. Third place goes to Chris Christie at 9.5 percent, and Rand Paul and Ben Carson rounded out the top five.

If the early days of the primary are guided by name recognition, it can’t be surprising to see Trump and Bush at the top of the pack. And Trump has dominated the political news cycle for nearly a month now, making him perhaps the most visible presidential contender on either side of the aisle. The mainstream media has mocked him relentlessly, the other candidates have distanced themselves from the real estate tycoon whenever possible, and political analysts have insisted that he has no shot at winning the nomination.

If these polls hold up, though, there could be a great many people with egg on their faces when the voting begins next year. A Donald Trump nomination – or even a strong showing – would be a certifiable game changer. In many ways, Trump has the magic combination of tough talk and unpolished conservatism that made George W. Bush and Sarah Palin big favorites among Republicans. Is he qualified to hold the presidency? That could be a different story, and it’s one that voters will have to ponder as they head out on their state’s election day. Whether he can win in the general will also be a matter of concern.

On the other hand, Republicans have played it safe for two straight elections. There may have been nothing that could have stopped the Obama train in 2008, but there was no excuse for failing in 2012. If Republicans put up a candidate like Bush this time around, they could be flushing their chances down the toilet. Republican voters haven’t had much to get excited about in the last decade; Trump has given the base something to chew on.