If Donald Trump runs as an independent next year for President it could have a major impact on the race, handing Barack Obama an easy reelection. PPP's newest poll in the battleground state of Iowa finds that Obama leads Mitt Romney only 45-41 in a head to head match up. But with Trump thrown into the mix Obama's 4 point lead over Romney becomes a 16 point advantage with the President at 43%, Romney at 27%, and Donald Trump pulling 21% as the wild card in the mix.
Trump gets 31% of the Republican vote running as an independent candidate, holding Romney to just 56% within the party. He also outpaces Romney with independents, finishing second at 25% to Obama's 41% with the former Massachusetts Governor coming in at 22%.
It's highly unlikely that Trump would really end up doing this well as an independent, but even if he just pulled 5-10% it would probably be enough to ensure Obama's reelection. And these numbers show that if Romney's the GOP nominee there may be enough consternation on the far right that another third party candidate and not necessarily just Trump could earn enough support from those voters to have a spoiler effect much as Ralph Nader did for Al Gore in 2000.
On our Nevada poll this weekend we'll look at both an Obama/Romney/Trump scenario and an Obama/Huckabee/Trump scenario to see if a Romney nomination makes Republicans particularly inclined to gravitate toward a Trump third party bid or if that's something that would be true regardless of the GOP candidate.
Obama could sure use Trump running as a third party candidate because he's in a lot of trouble in Iowa. His approval numbers there have dropped into negative territory with only 46% of voters approving of him to 48% who disapprove. Fortunately for him voters in the state aren't responding real positively to any of the Republican candidates either- Huckabee has the best favorability but is still in negative territory at 41/43. He's followed by Romney at 36/44, Gingrich at 24/56, Trump at 27/61, and Palin at 29/63.
Huckabee fights Obama to a tie in the state at 45%, quite a different story from Obama's 10 point Iowa victory in 2008. As mentioned above Romney also makes it quite competitive, trailing only 45-41. But the GOP can completely scuttle its chances at winning in Iowa- or probably anywhere else for that matter- by going with anyone in the Gingrich/Palin/Trump triumvirate. Despite his unpopularity Obama still leads Gingrich by 11 points at 50/39, Trump by 16 at 51/35, and Palin by 17 at 53/36.
Iowa is an odd state for Obama- even though he won it by 10 last time around its virtually all white population poses problems for him in the bigger picture because when you look across the country minority voters are still with him in pretty similar numbers to 2008 but he's dropped off quite a bit with white voters. That's why we now see him with better approval numbers in states like North Carolina and Virginia that were closer in 2008 than we do in Iowa.
We see a similar phenomenon in New Hampshire and frankly Obama can survive next year without the New Hampshires and Iowas of the world if he hangs on in the Virginias and North Carolinas. Still Iowa has to have a lot of sentimental value for Obama as the state that launched him to the nomination- how hard he has to fight to keep it is just going to come down to who the GOP puts forward.
Full results here