WHAT’S THIS WHOLE WORLD COMIN TO / THINGS JUST AIN’T THE SAME / ANY TIME THE HUNTER GETS CAPTURED BY THE GAME ~ TRACY THORN
Could it be that the man with the small hands and peculiar hair has hit the wall after so many premature predictions of his downfall? That there are no more angry white guys out there for him to seduce with his racist siren call? That the notoriety that enabled him to take and keep the keys to the Republican clown car has become a liability? And that the entire notion of running for president has become tiresome, and even a little humiliating to him, despite his overarching narcissism?
The dirty secret of Donald Trump's campaign — that is unless you’ve been reading Politix Update and the musings of a few other pundits — is that his support from Republican voters has never exceeded 40 percent, and his average margin of victory two-thirds of the way through the primary-caucus season remains a few clicks south of that although the field has narrowed from six candidates to just three, and only Ted Cruz is a threat to him.
Trump simply has no more room to grow outside the conservative bubble even if he does become the GOP nominee. And his negatives are ginormous. He is disliked by most Democrats and independents, by young voters and minorities, and absolutely loathed by women, including most Republican women.
HuffPost Pollster, which averages all publicly available polling, currently gives him a 63 percent unfavorable rating, up from 56 percent in January.
Indeed, the political number crunchers are collectively swooning over how bad Trump is polling.
"There is no precedent for this," explains Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. "In the modern polling era, since around World War II, there hasn't been a more unpopular potential presidential nominee than Donald Trump."
"In terms of any domestic personality that we have measured, we've never seen an individual with a higher negative," says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, calling Trump's image "exceptionally rancid."
It's hard to beat political analyst Larry Sabato when it comes to calling races. For example, he nailed the 2012 presidential outcome, including correctly predicting the exact number of electoral votes Barack Obama would win.
In May 2015, a month before Donald Trump announced his candidacy, Sabato's Crystal Ball projected a Democratic victory in November 2016, but his electoral map showed a close and competitive race: With a majority of 270 votes in the Electoral College needed for victory, Sabato had Democrats winning 247, Republicans winning 206, and 85 he considered toss-ups.
In March 2016, Sabato shows presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton winning 347 Electoral College votes to a mere 191 for Republicans if Trump is the nominee, with the Democratic take likely to go higher, eclipsing Obama’s 365 votes to John McCain’s 173 in 2008.
Interestingly, in the highly unlikely event that Clinton is not the Democratic nominee, Trump would fare even worse in a general election against Bernie Sanders in head-to-head polling in most swing states because of Clinton's negatives.
It is now beyond obvious that Donald Trump is not the cause of the Republican Party's destruction; he's the fulfillment of everything the party has become. And that every time the party takes a breath these days, that reality wracks it like the cough of a terminally ill smoker.
Trump and the GOP had a ginormous time of it last week.
The candidate declined to apologize for his lewd attacks on "Lyin' Ted" Cruz’s wife, angrily criticized a female reporter who accused his campaign manager of assault while denying that the widely photographed incident had occurred, said that more nations should have nuclear weapons and as president he would not refuse to use them in Europe, and declared in a series of ad-libs typical for him that women who had abortions should be punished, then said it was providers who should be punished, then further said no changes should be made in abortion laws, and then further further said that no changes should be made until he is president.
The party, for its part, is preoccupied with the grim prospect of Trump becoming "a kind of zombie candidate — damaged beyond the point of repair, but too late for any of his rivals to stop him," as The New York Times decorously put it.
While Cruz is expected to beat Trump in Wisconsin on Tuesday, the campaign moves onto decidedly favorable turf for Trump in its final phase with contests in his native New York on April 19 and then a series of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states where he is expected to do well, so the nomination may be within his real even though the presidency is most definitely not.
Returning to where I started, is it possible that the entire notion of running for president has become tiresome, and even a little humiliating, for Donald Trump despite that overarching narcissism?
My friend Hugh Cutler and I have the better part of a century between us (argh!) in sifting political tea leaves, he the now-retired longtime national editor of a major metropolitan newspaper and I as a reporter, editor and blogger. I had this to say to Hugh after Trump's spectacular Super Tuesday successes at the beginning of March:
"I have had a thought bouncing around in the recesses of my mind for some time now: Trump will make some sort of grand gesture at some point because he really is not, down deep, interested in being president, and may even understand that he is incapable of being president."I do not know what form that gesture would take or when he will make it, but after many months of this wild ride, I still cannot believe he's in it for the long haul."Hugh’s reply resonated deeply then and does even more so now:
"It's safe to say that betting against The Donald has been the undoing of many a TV and print pundit this campaign season, and I'd have to think that to know his mind would put me in very sociopathic company. I take your point, though, and, for me as well, it's difficult to imagine he'd be willing to give up the high life and constant stroking of his coterie and settle for the White House and endure congressional and media brickbats as he fails in his many pledges. But 'leader of the free world' is an awesome title and aspiration, and it's similarly hard to imagine how he could find a creative way at this point to bow out 'manfully.'"Still, the prospect of defeat -- either in a brokered convention or in a general election campaign -- could wonderfully concentrate Trump's mind to hint that his business interests are too crucial to leave to others."Is that going to happen? Dunno.
But Trump's ad-libbing on abortion was deeply revealing: He still doesn’t take this running-for-president thing seriously and lazily passed the buck to pro-life right wingers.
(There was one . . . uh, delightful consequence to his buck-passing: Cruz and John Katich are virulently anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment, and Trump unintentionally put them in the position of reconciling the irreconcilable. How can they advocate harshly punishing people for murder but not punishing the women who choose to terminate pregnancies since the pro-life movement considers abortion to be murder?)
Including abortion, Trump still really doesn't have a position on anything that doesn’t involve buying or selling real estate. The hunter has gotten captured by the game and he doesn't like it.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
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