When we reach the Iowa caucuses, there will still be at least eight to ten candidates remaining in the race. Thus, in that fractured field, Trump will not be hampered by a one-on-one match-up. Trump will not need to worry about how he performs against Ben Carson, for example, if Ben Carson is also competing with Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, etc.
It is also worth noting that Iowa is one of the weakest states for Trump. Iowa has a very particular base of Christian conservative voters, and while Trump does reasonably well with that group, it is not an especially strong voting bloc for him. That said, Trump will more than likely fare better in later states, like New Hampshire.
Further, if Trump does make it to a one-on-one race against another primary contender, circumstances will have changed. By the time the race consolidates into a two candidate field, both Trump and his challenger will have won states which would completely change the dynamic of the race.
That said, the biggest takeaway from this poll is not that Trump would get beaten in a head-to-head race in Iowa, but rather that Jeb Bush would lose to Trump in that head-to-head scenario. This shows that reservations against nominating Bush are higher than the reservations against nominating Trump. If that continues to hold true moving forward, it is a devastating blow for Bush’s hopes of a decent showing in Iowa and beyond.
Frank Cannon is the president of American Principles in Action.