Another day, another poll showing Republican presidential candidate and anti-Mexican crusader Donald Trump leading the presidential field, but this time, with a difference. One of the ways in which the political media has thus far been able to dismiss Trump's candidacy has been his extraordinarily high negatives, which allow him to lead in a flat field, but which present a low ceiling for him down the road. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, though, Trump not only leads the entire Republican field with 17% support, his favorability among Republicans has nearly tripled since their last poll:
Trump’s positive ratings are up very sharply among Republicans and strong conservatives, by 34 and 30 points, to 57 and 55 percent, respectively. He’s also gained 26 points among seniors and 24 points among whites, to 38 and 42 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.
That spike in favorability was enough to more than double Trump's overall favorability, from 16% in May to 33% in the latest poll. That still gets him clobbered in the general election, but suddenly gives him lots of room to move up in the Republican nominating contest even after the field narrows. With the first televised debate just weeks away, Trump is poised to open up a huge national lead once he gets done stuffing Jeb Bush into a locker on Fox News.
As the political media struggles to explain Trump's popularity, they toss around adjectives like "bold" and "brash," two things that Trump was in May, and that lots of other GOP candidates are now. What they seem afraid to say is that Trump's appeal is so obviously based on his nakedly racist appeals to the Republican base.
The only thing that's changed since May is that Trump burst out of the gate by calling undocumented Mexican immigrants "rapists" (with a statistically probable smattering of "good people" in the mix somewhere), then refining and reinforcing that message into its current "I'm not talking about the good ones" form, while other Republicans alternately agreed with him on the substance and/or criticized his "tone."
That strategy has paid dividends for Trump among Republican base voters, but as that new poll reveals, has also landed him a 13% approval rating among Hispanic voters. That means that Trump is viewed less favorably by Hispanic voters than sharks are by the North Carolinians they keep eating this summer.
The problem with Trump is that not only are Republicans afraid to call out his racism, so is the political media. By ignoring it in favor of more generic critiques like "tone," or by attributing Trump's success to things that are clearly unchanged since his tenure at the bottom of the polls, they reinforce Trump's narrative that he's not a racist, he's a realist. That narrative is what's making (white) people feel like they now have permission to support Trump.
Of course, that's only a "problem" if you're a Republican. Hillary Clinton will be laughing all the way to the White House.