Who could have guessed an underwhelming, unethical, politically connected dynast might not be the Democrats’ strongest card to play in a populist year? Check out this magical trendline for Her Majesty. Maybe time for some “Free the Delegates” action in Philadelphia, eh, lefties?
That’s the story of the race so far. Trump is flat around 40 percent while the public slowly comes to grips with the horror that the only major-party alternative is … Hillary Clinton. She’s up to a scintillating 67 percent this week among people who say they don’t find her honest or trustworthy (Trump is at 62 percent) thanks to James Comey’s announcement last week. Interestingly, she’s also suddenly fallen well behind Trump when voters are asked whom they trust more on the economy. In June they were tied on that question; Trump now leads by fully 11 points. I wonder if his speech on protectionism a few weeks ago resonated more than anyone understands right now. If so, and assuming he makes a showpiece of that message at the convention, then things really are looking up for him in August. Just 16 days ago, he had a less than 20 percent chance of victory in FiveThirtyEight’s model. Today? Thirty-four percent and rising.
Then again, maybe the polls are just bouncy right now because Americans are dizzy over how lame their options are:
Volatility in polls is symptom of 2 historically unpopular candidates. Voters don't like their choices
— amy walter (@amyewalter) July 14, 2016
The other splashy poll out today is Drudge’s favorite, Rasmussen, which has consistently pegged Trump’s support higher than other major pollsters have. I tend to view them as the opposite of Reuters — interesting, worth noting, but far enough from the pack to warrant skepticism. (They’re the only national outfit since mid-May to show Trump leading.) They’ve got him at 44 percent today versus a pitiful 37 percent for Hillary, which is more or less the inverse of how most pollsters have seen the race thus far. Some of Rasmussen’s internal numbers make sense, though:
Trump now has the support of 80% of Republicans and 13% of Democrats. Clinton earns just 72% of the Democratic vote and picks up five percent (5%) of Republicans. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, Trump leads by 13 points, but 27% of these voters either like another candidate or are undecided.
Perhaps more troubling for Clinton is that she now trails by 17 points among white voters after the murder last week of five white policemen in Dallas which Trump has attributed to anti-police rhetoric by President Obama, Clinton and others. This is a noticeably wider gap than we have seen previously, while her support among black and other minority voters remains unchanged.
Is it possible after a week of Emailgate that Republicans are now unified behind Trump more solidly than Democrats are unified behind Hillary? Seems possible to me. If you’re a Bernie fan who thought she was sleazy all along, you’ve just been handed a reminder by the director of the FBI that your suspicions were correct. That’ll affect Democratic solidarity, although maybe not for long. The data on Trump expanding his lead among white voters is significant too. Comey’s announcement has obscured the possible electoral consequences of last week’s ambush attack on Dallas police, with Trump trumpeting in the following days that he’s the “law and order candidate.” If white voters are suddenly worried about black radicals, go figure that they’d tilt more heavily towards Trump and away from Hillary. And go figure that that tilt might become more pronounced if there’s anarchy outside the Republican or Democratic conventions. Worries about unrest tend to wax and wane with the news cycle so maybe Trump can’t count on that sort of bounce durably, but odds are good that he can count on it in the near term.
Oh, one other noteworthy data point: Rasmussen has Gary Johnson at 12 percent and the NYT/CBS has him at 13. He’s tantalizingly close to the 15 percent threshold he’d need to make it to the debates. Given that Trump’s numbers are flat in most polls, it seems as though Johnson is the main beneficiary of Hillary’s downturn. The weaker she is over the next two months, the higher the odds that the debates will be a three-way fight.