Perhaps Trump is Not Base Enough

One of the criticisms of the Republican convention was that it was all about “the base.” Hillary, meanwhile, was praised for reaching out to independents and Republicans.

A new batch of polls shows that conventional wisdom was not quite right.  Trump has slipped in large part because he was less effective than Hillary Clinton at consolidating support from their own party.

A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows that Trump is winning 83 percent of Republicans, about the same (82 percent) as before the convention.  By contrast, Hillary went into the Democratic convention with 79% of Democrats and came out with 86%

McClatchy-Marist poll showed the same thing:  Hillary gets 88 percent of Dems while Trump gets 78% of Republicans.  Remarkably, Trump is getting only 55% of “conservative/very conservative” voters while Hillary gets 74% of “liberal/very liberal.”

Another clue: Quinnipiac’s latest battleground polls have Clinton way ahead in Pennsylvania (+10) but just about tied with Trump in Forida (+1).  What accounts for the difference?  In Florida, Trump is leading among Republicans 91-5% while in Pennsylvania, he’s leading 83-14%

Another way of looking at it: Gary Johnson, the third party candidate for disgruntled Republicans, is getting 10 percent while Jill Stein, the third party candidate for disgruntled Democrats, is getting 6 percent.

Trump is not particularly blowing it among independents. He’s doing about as well with Independents as Romney did, according to the Post/ABC poll.

The polls don’t go deep enough into the details to show why he’s not consolidating his support among Republicans. A few theories:

–His sexism and temperament has alienated a small but important slice of Republican women. The New York Times reported that Trump’s lead with Republican women has dropped 13% points since the Republican convention.  His target for the convention should have been Republican women; it wasn’t.

–Trump focused on humiliating his opponents while Hillary focused on reaching out to them. (About 65 percent of Bernie Sanders support Hillary now; 60% of those who voted for a Republican other than Trump, are supporting the Republican nominee). Hillary’s handling of Bernie Sanders was far better than Trump’s vengeance-payback cycle with Ted Cruz.  In this sense, Hillary proved to be the far better “deal maker” than Mr. Art of the Deal.

–Alienating military families is not a good way to consolidate your base.  The Marist poll said Trump was just narrowing beating Hillary among veterans, 44% to 38%.  The Post poll show 61 percent of Republicans disapproving of Trump’s handling of Khizr and Ghazala Khan.

–Foreign policy conservatives have no reason to feel better.  A lot of the Republicans who didn’t like Trump during the primaries focused on his foreign policy. Initially they didn’t like his “opposition” to the Iraq war.  Now they don’t like that he seems unstable and too close to Russia.

This is all good news for Hillary but also provides a cautionary note: to close the gap significantly Trump “merely” needs to consolidate Republicans, which would seem to be easier than wooing independents.

Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman is founder of LifePosts.com, a platform for online memorials and life milestones. He's a Washington Monthly contributing editor, journalist and author.