A bit of surprising news via the latest Newsweek/Daily Beast poll. In a 2012 matchup, Donald Trump trails President Obama by only two points — well within the margin of error:
The prospective addition of Donald Trump to the race did produce some impact, and his support was in the high single digits.
Individual head-to-head ballot tests for president show President Obama with a double-digit lead over Sarah Palin (51-40), a narrow lead over Mitt Romney (49-47) and Donald Trump (43-41), and a tie with Mike Huckabee (46-46).
So does this news, in addition to the warm reception Trump received at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month, mean that the business magnate should be considered a serious contender for 2012?
Not exactly — at least not yet.
The Newsweek/Daily News poll also noted that “the particularly high percentage of undecided voters in the race with Trump underscores the substantial degree of uncertainty his prospective candidacy provokes.”
And as conservatives and independents begin learning more about Trump’s politics, they may not like what they hear. As AEI’s Kevin Hassett notes in an excellent analysis at Business Week, Trump’s past flip-flops make Mitt Romney look like an unwavering right-wing stalwart.
Hassett’s piece should be read in full, but here are just a few issues from Trump’s past that could potentially come back to bite him during a 2012 GOP runoff:
Trump has jumped from registered Republican (1987-1999) to Independence Party (1999-2001) to Democrat (2001-2009) and back to the GOP again (2009). His most recent switch is perhaps the most telling, since it came just in time for him to start laying the groundwork for a 2012 run.
But his past statements would probably prove to be more damaging than his wavering affiliations, as opponents use these against him during a Republican primary.
“I probably identify more as a Democrat,” he told Wolf Blitzer in 2004. “It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.” That claim is quite a contrast to his more recent statements to Greta Van Susteren last week: “I’m Republican, a very conservative Republican. I believe strongly in just about all conservative principles, just about,” said Trump.
He’s also flipped on the abortion issue, telling Tim Russert in 1999 that “I am pro-choice in every respect,” but then telling Van Susteren last week that “I’m pro-life. I think that’s a big social issue.”
As for health care, which will probably be one of the biggest issues during the Republican primary, Trump once said that “Our people are our greatest asset. We must take care of our own. We must have universal health care.” He now contends that the health-care-reform laws are unconstitutional.
Also deeply problematic are Trump’s past calls for a steep wealth tax.
So while Trump may be enjoying some success in the polls right now, it’s likely owing to his celebrity status and President Obama’s drooping public support. Once his past political statements become more publicized, it’s unlikely that his popularity in the polls will continue.