Donald Trump speaks to a Republican group in Las Vegas. He says the "birther"… (Steve Marcus, Reuters )
That string of sibilants you hear is the air rapidly leaking out of the presidential balloon that kept Donald Trump floating above the political confusion that has marked the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
According to the latest poll by Public Policy Polling, Trump, the not-so-bashful candidate in waiting, has had one of the quickest rises — and now falls — in presidential politics. The Democratic polling company once had Trump leading the more than a dozen possible GOP contenders with 26%, but now the reality show host and businessman is down to 8%, in a tie for fifth place with Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Booms and boomlets for presidential aspirants are as much of the political system as testing the waters and floating trial balloons. Harold Stassen became a dogged perennial candidate even though his support was increasingly cultish. On the Democratic side, Bruce Babbitt came and went after a flurry of media attention. Neither hopeful was alone or unique.
In just this cycle, Rep. Mike Pence bounced up in the presidential sweepstakes, but soon bounced out to a much safer run for Indiana governor. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the insider’s insider, puffed up and dropped out.
Even Gen. David Petraeus, was bruited about as a possible candidate until just before President Obama nominated him for head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The military commander follows in the footsteps of Gen. Colin Powell, who was also mentioned as presidential timber.
According to PPP, Trump seems to have ridden the "birther" issue up in the polls then down after the White House released Obama's long-form birth certificate, proving yet again that he was indeed born in Hawaii. Trump claimed credit for getting the release, but that doesn’t seem to have swayed GOP voters. Only 34% of them said they had a favorable opinion of Trump, while 53% said they viewed him in a negative light, according to the poll.
The poll is based on a sample of 610 usual primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Like many of the possible GOP contenders, Trump has not made a formal declaration on whether he will really run.
The poll found that former Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were opening some daylight between themselves and the rest of the GOP pack. But the level of support changes depending on which candidates drop out of the running. In short, the GOP race remains a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces.