They used to say that Bill Clinton was made of teflon because no bad news stuck to him, but last fall I began to think this was a better descriptor of Donald Trump who seemed to be able to say or do anything without it negatively affecting his polling numbers. What was hidden in those polling numbers, however, was just how differently Republicans (and particularly Republican men) view the universe. So, while 56% of Republicans have a positive view of The Donald, they’re completely alone in that assessment.
[Trump’s] 87 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Democrats is not very worrisome for his candidacy, as Republican presidential nominees rarely win much support among Democratic voters in general elections.
Yet Trump also continues to receive strongly negative ratings among several key voting blocs that are at least partly up for grabs this year. Two-thirds of political independents have an unfavorable view of Trump, as do 74 percent of Americans under age 40; 75 percent of women, and 81 percent of Hispanics. Majorities in each group see Trump in a “strongly unfavorable” light, exceeding intense negative ratings of Cruz or Kasich by at least 20 points.
These are not survivable numbers, and Trump isn’t even coming close to doing well enough with the “poorly educated” whites he said he loved for giving him his victory in the Nevada caucuses.
Should those ratings fail to improve, Trump’s potential path to victory rides on a surge in support and turnout among whites, particularly those without college degrees. Yet Trump’s image among both groups is underwater. Whites see him negatively by a 59 to 39 percent margin, while non-college whites tilt negative by a narrower 52 to 45 percent.
Even Republican women are down on Trump, with only 47% of the them giving him a positive review. Trump’s success is driven entirely by his 64% popularity with white Republican men.
If you take the electorate and subtract every laid off mechanic and guy over 40 who obsessively fantasizes about being a successful golf pro, Trump’s support approaches zero.
So, perhaps the most shocking discovery of this campaign season is that the GOP has been so denuded of ordinary people that the aggressive a**hole vote is now a big enough plurality of the party to decide their nomination. This becomes doubly clear when you realize that the main alternative to Trump is Ted Cruz, who almost defines the aforementioned term of non-endearment.
I think this really is the surprise of the moment, because we all knew who Trump was going into this. After all, Birtherism is synonymous with being aggressively wrong and proudly rude and stupid. What we didn’t know (most of us, anyway) is that the GOP had devolved to the point where these were considered positive attributes and desirable credentials in someone who seeks the nuclear codes.
It’s looking increasingly possible that Trump will be denied the nomination despite winning the most votes, the most states, and the most delegates. And that this is possible is undoubtedly a good thing, and to the credit of the RNC’s rules makers. But what we now understand is the nature of the beast the Republicans created with their no-holds-barred opposition to President Obama. And the delegates in Cleveland will have to wrestle with this beast even if they are successful in preventing the rest of us from having to do so in the general election.