Look at the PollTracker Average and Hillary Clinton’s margin over Donald Trump has been on the upswing for almost a month. We now put her at 6.2 percentage points ahead of Trump if the election were held today. Of course, the election is not being held today. And we are told, always rightly, that we shouldn’t read too much into June polls of a November election. But there’s a significant addendum to that conventional wisdom when it comes to Donald Trump. Like a highly leveraged business that does great as long as it’s doing well but can collapse under the weight of debt if anything goes wrong, Trump is uniquely dependent on winning poll numbers.
This is true of every candidate to some extent. People almost can’t help but impute strength and wisdom to winners. Every winning campaign was run by geniuses; every losing one by idiots. More specifically, struggling campaigns get second-guessed. They often feel compelled to shift strategies (disarray!). When the new strategy doesn’t work, they’re flailing, desperate!
But almost the entirety of Trump’s campaign is based on his poll numbers, because they are a proxy for his strength and supposed ability to win in all cases.
A lot of this is ego and narcissism – the kind of thing that was on display when he couldn’t help giving out virtual high fives to supporters after the atrocity in Orlando supposedly “proved I was right.” But it’s more than that, numerical evidence of ‘winning’ is central to the Trump cult of winning. Bad polls hurt any campaign. For Trump they’re devastating.
If you’re campaign is based on winning and bragging about winning but you’re demonstrably losing – and perhaps losing badly – you start to look ridiculous. Like a highly leveraged business, without high poll numbers or some premise that he’s winning, he’s not just losing, he barely has a campaign.