New data shows Trump fever breaking
Donald Trump looked tired after a grueling Republican debate. He might not be alone.
After a summer of spectacle and saturation coverage, signs are accumulating that, for the public and the media, the onset of Trump fatigue has begun.
Mentions of Trump on both television and radio have been trending downward for a month from their post-Fox debate high. His share of Twitter conversation relative to other candidates has declined in recent weeks, and his odds in political prediction markets have dipped in the hours since Wednesday night’s debate.
Radio and television conversation about Trump peaked on Aug. 7, the day after the first Republican debate, with close to 11,000 mentions of his name on each medium that day, according to data through Monday provided by media monitoring firm Critical Mention. The last time Trump reached even half as many mentions on either medium was on Aug. 26, the day after he clashed dramatically with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos at a news conference in Iowa.
That was Trump’s most dominant day of the campaign on Twitter, when 80 percent of conversations about Republican presidential candidates were about him, according to data through mid-Thursday provided by the analytics firm Echelon Insights. Since that day, his share of Twitter conversation has trended downward.
Early reactions to the debate, in which Carly Fiorina emerged a winner and Trump struggled to break through, also suggest the race may be moving beyond the Trump-show phase.
On a political prediction market run by CNN and Pivit, his odds at the nomination tanked from 20 percent to 12 percent between the debate’s start and its end.
According to hour-by-hour data provided by Predictwise, a project that compiles information from polls and betting markets to predict the outcome of elections, his likelihood of winning the nomination dipped from as high as 16 percent during the hours before the debate to 12 percent after the debate’s first hour.
“The markets definitively gave Trump a bad night, showing him falling below Rubio in the second tier of candidates likely to prevail in 2016,” said David Rothschild an economist with Predictwise.
“He has stalled, potentially,” said Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini of Echelon.
That diagnosis comes with major caveats, warn pollsters, analysts and crisis communications experts. The next few days will provide a clearer picture of the state of the race after the dust from the second debate settles. Trump has proven a master of public relations, they said, provoking flurries of coverage and conversation seemingly at will. And his candidacy has repeatedly defied prediction.
“We’re in uncharted territory with this guy,” said Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown. “This is fundamentally different from the candidate of the week who showed up four years ago,” he added, referring to the 2012 Republican nominating contest, when Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich all enjoyed their moments as pack leader before fading away.
“A lot of the rules that we talk about when we talk about politics and messaging and brand and reputation don’t apply here,” cautioned Larry Kopp, founder of the TASC group, a political and advocacy crisis communications firm.
Indeed, given how distinct Trump has been as a candidate, it’s not clear how a sustained decline in coverage would affect his candidacy.
But there are metrics to watch.
A dip, for example, in Trump’s “share of voice,” the portion of the conversation about the Republican race that centers on him, could fuel a decline in his poll position, Ruffino said.
The trendlines on poll questions other than topline horse-race figures also could be a leading indicator of a coming decline in Trump’s overall standing. That would include a decline in the number of people who name Trump as their second choice.
“If he became the eighth, or ninth, or 10th second choice, that would be a huge story,” said Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos. “The foreshadowing of Ben Carson’s ascension to the No. 2 spot was the bubbling up of his favorability and the fact that in many polls he was second choice.”
An increase in the number of respondents who prioritize a candidate’s positions over his or her personal qualities could also spell trouble for Trump. “Right now, it’s kind of split down the middle,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray, “So if you start moving back towards their views on the issues,” voters may defect to more consistent conservatives.
For now, Trump’s challenge is to sustain the historic level of attention he already has generated and avoid becoming just another early front-runner, doomed to fade before Iowa.
“When conventional wisdom started saying that Trump could be the nominee, that scared me,” said one Trump insider. “Because you know what conventional wisdom is? Always wrong.”