A new OpinionSavvy/InsiderAdvantage poll shows Donald Trump doing better in the South than he is nationally. In Georgia, The Donald’s 30 percent is nearly double his closest competitor, Jeb Bush (17 percent), Ben Carson’s at 10 percent, and the rest of the field is single digits—or zero, as in the case of southern boy Lindsey Graham. (Maybe it’s the SEC football rivalry working against him?)
Next door in South Carolina, Trump is at 31 percent, while home state Sen. Graham is at a modest 7 percent. In Alabama, Trump is at a gasp-inducing 38 percent.
Matt Towery at Insider Advantage says they’ve done these polls in 13 states across the South and Southwest, and Donald Trump is at or near the top in every state. “If there’s not a local candidate with home field advantage,” Towery told me, “Trump’s winning.” In Florida, for example, Trump and Bush are neck-and-neck (27-26 percent), while Rubio trails with just 7 percent.
The South used to be “Establishment Country,” where a Dole or a W. could go to rescue a stumbling candidacy after setbacks in Iowa or New Hampshire. But Gingrich’s South Carolina win in 2012 proved that the southern firewall had been forever breached.
It’s hard not to focus on the fact that in both Georgia and South Carolina, Donald Trump has as much support as Cruz, Walker, Christie, Fiorina, Kasich, Paul, Rubio, Jindal, Perry, Graham, Pataki and Santorum combined. But it may be more important—and problematic—that the “conventional wisdom” choices like Walker and Rubio are polling so poorly. Forget how far behind Trump they are. Walker and Rubio combined don’t even match Ben Carson’s numbers. They’re losing to Huckabee.
“With the exception of Bush, who is consistently in second place across the South, the establishment candidates are struggling,” Towery says. “It’s Ben Carson, not Scott Walker, who is currently emerging as the third choice of Republican voters.”
The flip side is that Donald Trump is emerging as the candidate of the South. “When you consider how much he’s out-performing national polls down here, Trump’s numbers must be lower elsewhere.”
How does a flashy, New York billionaire become the candidate of the NASCAR crowd? It’s not the Tea Party. Emily Ekins at the Federalist writes:
Tea Party voters prefer Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (24 percent) to Trump (14 percent). In contrast, Republicans overall favor Trump first (19 percent) followed by Walker (17 percent), according to a PPP poll. Furthermore, Trump does about as well among moderate Republicans as he does among very conservative Republicans (seeABC/WashPo and PPP polls.)
It could be a reflection of the strong anti-GOP-establishment sentiment across the South. It could also be more evidence that Trump is tapping into anger among blue-collar white voters. Ekins also notes that Trump is doing far better with voters without college degrees (32 percent) than with graduates (8 percent).
The knock on some social conservatives like Sen. Cruz and Mike Huckabee is that they’re “regional” candidates who would over-perform in already red Southern states but wash out in the swing states. For the moment, however, the most regional candidate in the GOP race is Donald “The Darling of Dixie” Trump.