What's happened to Jeb Bush?

October 14, 2015, 2:46 PM GMT+0

Despite high expectations, Jeb Bush's campaign to become the Republican nominee is faltering   

He was once the clear frontrunner for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination.  Then, while candidates like Donald Trump emerged, he was still seen by many Republicans as the likely nominee.  But now former Florida Governor Jeb Bush runs behind Trump, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  Bush is just about tied with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and businesswomen Carly Fiorina in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll.

Bush receives hardly any support this week from conservative Republicans, who make up the majority of his party.  Just 4% of conservative Republicans favor Bush.  This Economist/YouGov Poll was conducted among a sample about twice as large as that of most public polls. Since about 500 sample members are Republicans, it possible to look at some subgroups. 

Today, Bush is nearly as likely to be seen negatively as positively by members of his own party.  Only 52% have a favorable opinion of him this week, while 43% are unfavorable.  Only New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has had problems with Republicans throughout the campaign, has unfavorable ratings approaching Bush’s.  There are especially dramatic differences in the way Republicans currently evaluate other candidates and the way they evaluate Bush.  Trump, Carson, and Rubio receive much higher favorable ratings from Republicans.

Bush received much higher ratings from Republicans through early 2015.  His unfavorable ratings have been rising, however, and in this week’s poll they are higher than ever before.

Bush’s path to the GOP nomination looks even more difficult when he is matched in head-to-head contests against two other Republicans.  He trails Trump by 18 points, and Rubio by 38 points in GOP head to head contests. 

Trump and Rubio are essentially even: in a Trump-Rubio matchup 53% choose Rubio, and 47% Trump.  Ben Carson also scores 53% against Trump’s 47%.

Until two months ago, Bush was viewed as the most likely GOP nominee by Republicans.  That is no longer the case: although Trump’s GOP support has dropped from his high point in the mid-30’s (28% name him as their first choice this week), he – not Bush -- is viewed as the party’s most likely nominee.    Just 13% say Bush is most likely to win the nomination. 

Until his withdrawal from the race, about one in ten Republicans thought of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as the most likely GOP nominee. 

Although a majority of Republicans still think Bush can beat the Democratic nominee (whomever that is) if he does win their party’s nomination, that percentage has shrunk in the last few months.  Significantly more see Trump, Rubio and Carson as possible November winners. 

Among the public overall, about half say Bush can win in the fall.  About the same percentage think that of Trump.

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.