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Trump Holds Commanding Lead One Week From First Debate

Quinnipiac's most recent polling could play a role in who debates where in the first Republican presidential debate.
Nick Evans

The first presidential debate is looming, and under revised rules all seventeen Republican hopefuls—including two big names from Florida—will be squeezing onstage.  The only question is whether they’ll be the on the main stage or part of the opening act.

Earlier this week, Fox News announced it would include all declared candidates in its August 6 debate.  Under earlier guidelines, participants needed at least one percent of likely voters to qualify.  But that doesn’t mean all seventeen candidates will share one stage—the main debate featuring the top ten finishers will run later in the evening, after an opening round with candidates who failed to make the cut.  Fox will determine who goes where August 4, by averaging the five most recent national polls.

“Well I think it’s likely that the debates this time will look like the debates last time only maybe on steroids,” Tom Hollihan says. 

He’s a professor in the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.  The last time he’s talking about is the last presidential cycle where boisterous Republican candidates took turns beating up on their more centrist competitors.

“It’s very difficult for candidates to distinguish themselves and to be memorable,” Hollihan says, “and what we know of how debate works is that people primarily take away quips, and lines that are memorable, and mistakes.”

And it’s a problem that has some in the GOP scared.  Party officials have limited the number of debates this cycle specifically to avoid the gauntlet Mitt Romney had to run on his way to the 2012 nomination.  And while Trump has jumped out to an early lead, the most recent Quinnipiac poll shows two presumed frontrunners—Scott Walker and Jeb Bush—quietly rounding out the top three.  

“So there’s a lot of different ways to read that,” Quinnipiac Assistant Director Tim Malloy says.  “Maybe there are Republicans saying we better start paying attention to this because we don’t want Trump, and it’s helped these other two guys that a lot of people thought would be the leading people to begin with.”

But as Walker and Bush hang tough, Marco Rubio is slipping according to Quinnipiac’s numbers.  But it doesn’t seem likely he’ll fall out of the top ten and miss the main stage.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.