This week's episode of my new podcast is a treat. I talk to Professor Charles Franklin, one of the nation's top polling experts. Charles is also the outside consultant we work with for statistical and methodology questions tied to PollTracker. We're now in the thick of a presidential campaign. Everybody's obsessing about polls, everybody gets worried about polls and everybody - at least real political junkies - knows some of the basics of how polls work. But I thought it would be interesting and helpful to run some basic questions by a true expert. That way you and I could both get a really grounded understanding. Should you try to un-skew polls if the crosstabs look weird? How do pollsters "weight" samples? Are the online polls as good as the traditional phone polls? We get into all of that and more in this week's podcast. I hope you enjoy it.
We've seen a lot of Trump meltdowns. But I'm not sure we've seen one quite like this one with Alicia Machado. We had a recent preview with what I believe was his reaction to being gently rebuked by Pastor Faith Green Timmons of Flint, Michigan. But here we appear to have a special confluence of events. Trump becomes unhinged whenever he is challenged or insulted or injured by someone he perceives as beneath him in the gender or racial hierarchy. The list is almost endless: Hillary Clinton, Alicia Machado, Obama, the Khans, Judge Curiel. Trump is a bully who lives in a zero sum psychic economy of dominance. There are dominators and the dominated. That operates with white men too, as we saw in the Republican primaries. But when the injury comes from someone he believes is beneath him, there is a special intensity and charge. Taking down a Bush or a Cruz, Trump was vicious and dominating but seemingly in control. He wielded his aggressive bullying as a weapon. There's aggression but not rage. In these other cases, he's clearly not in control. It overcomes him.
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I'd recommend everybody bear in mind the dynamic we've discussed several times recently, which is that the presidential race has with a fair consistency oscillated between a substantial Clinton lead and a minuscule Clinton lead (ref the 'Clinton Wall'). That said, we seem to be back in the Trump fall off part of the cycle. The TPM Electoral Scoreboard stands at Clinton 302, Trump 203, where it's been for the last couple days. But within those numbers, over the last 48 hours we've gotten a range of quality state polls taken after Monday night's debate. And they're uniformly bad for Trump.
Despite claiming for days that every online poll of his supporters say he won Monday night's presidential debate, Trump now insists first debate was a "rigged deal."
"I had to put up with the anchor and fight the anchor all the time on everything I said."
Nobody could help noticing that Steve Bannon's takeover of the Trump campaign did impart a significant degree of discipline on the campaign and Trump himself. Zero to ten mph in 20 seconds, sure. But improvement is improvement. What we should note, however, is how little control the campaign has over Trump (let alone how little control Trump has over himself) when he is forced to operate without a teleprompter and when his ego is put under any form of assault or even pressure. As many have already noted, Clinton's mention of Alicia Machado's treatment at Trump's hands was no random, momentary decision. They'd seen Curiel; they'd seen Khan. She and her team know how Trump's lack of empathy, self-awareness and narcissism makes him ripe for these days' or weeks' long self-destructive tirades.
They laid the trap and he walked right into it.