Face It: It’s About the Polls

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump National Doral, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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Let me reiterate a point I made this morning. For all the talk about “interventions”, ‘en masse’ defections from the Trump campaign, major GOP leaders renouncing their support, let’s not kid ourselves about what’s driving this. It’s the polls.

Polls, polls, polls.

This isn’t to say that the Khan debacle hasn’t genuinely offended people. It’s not to say that flaunting his non-endorsement of Ryan and McCain aren’t a thing. Either of these would have added to Trump’s list of outrages. But is Trump’s fight with the Khan family that much worse than his racist slurs against Judge Curiel? Worse, probably, but I’d say it’s in the same ballpark. How about his treatment of Republican competitors? What about his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States or expel 3% of the US population from the country. Trump’s speech last week, a sort of rhetorical version of the iconic movie Escape from New York, was bizarre and disturbing, as was the Trump campaign encouraged chants of “Lock her Up!!”

Do we know anything more about Trump today than we knew two weeks ago? I think the answer is obviously “no”. It’s probably fair to say that if you had Trump at a 71 on the scale of absolute craziness, he’s now maybe a 74 or maybe 76.

It’s just not that different.

But now it looks like gravity does work. Acting like a maniac on the public stage is making some people less likely to vote for Trump. Scott Baio wasn’t as persuasive a messenger as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Trump is starting to look like as big a political loser as you’d expect – or at least hope. Of course, they call convention bounces “bounces” for a reason. They tend to fade. But this is a big bounce. And you should be confident that endangered Republican senators are getting very bleak reports from pollsters working for their campaigns or the NRSC.

Here’s the current trend line coming out of the conventions.

I get that the Khan debacle seems particularly extreme, not only for the callousness, the violation of one of contemporary America’s gravest public taboos and more than anything else the lack of self-control and overabundance of self-destructiveness. But if Trump were polling better I’m confident we’d just be seeing more handwringing. The belief that he might actually be able to win is the glue which has bound together the bad faith, hypocrisy, fear and general derp congealing the Republican party around Trump. Absent that, everybody will start to run for the hills.

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