Google Poll: Trump won the debate; Bush lost it

In the view of Republican voters who watched last night’s debate, Donald Trump won the encounter and Marco Rubio finished second, according to a poll conducted by Google Consumer Surveys for the Wall Street Journal.

Trump was the winner in the view of 28 percent of Republicans; Rubio in the eyes of 23 percent. After them come Ted Cruz (16 percent), Ben Carson (14 percent), Carly Fiorina (7 percent) and Rand Paul (also 7 percent). Bringing up the rear are Jeb Bush (3 percent) and John Kasich (2 percent).

Google conducted the poll by questioning people who visit a set of online news, reference, and entertainment websites. It infers a respondent’s gender, age, and geographic location based on anonymous browsing history and other data. (How it makes sure respondents watched the debate, I’m not sure). On mobile devices, people answer questions in exchange for credits for books, music, and apps, and answer demographic questions when first downloading the app. Using this data, Google Consumer Surveys builds a representative sample of thousands of respondents. You can read more about this methodology here.

I don’t know whether the results of this poll are reliable, but they make sense (or at least comport with my take on the debate, which isn’t necessarily the same thing).

Trump, by trumpeting the views about immigration that helped capture about 30 percent Republican support, could expect to be viewed as the winner by about that portion of the GOP electorate.

Rubio, by inserting highly effective, well-delivered excerpts from his stump speeches into his answers, could expect to exceed his level of support in the polls. That he nearly doubled that level is an impressive accomplishment. (Incidentally, Democrats viewed Rubio as the winner, which suggests that his “generational change” message has resonance with non-Republicans and/or that he’s simply an attractive candidate overall).

Ted Cruz, the best pure debater of the bunch, also exceeded his preference poll numbers. No surprise there.

Ben Carson did not reach his preference number. Again, no surprise; he’s not a particularly good debater. But I doubt that his debate performance will cause erosion of his support in the near term.

If the Google/WSJ poll is accurate, then Jeb Bush is the big loser of last night’s debate. This is what I thought at the time.

I like Bush and believe he would be a pretty good president. But when you give it your best shot and only 3 percent think you won, it’s time seriously to consider exiting the race.

He’s tried attacking Trump; he’s tried attacking Rubio; and last night he attacked Hillary Clinton. None of it has worked. Bush is out of ammo, it seems to me.