Did the weekend turn out to be a wash? The latest poll from Morning Consult and Politico, taken after the release of the “grab her by the p****” tape from Donald Trump and the debate with Hillary Clinton, shows that … not much has changed. Respondents thought Hillary won the debate and deplored the tape, but the race went from Hillary up six points in the previous Morning Consult poll to Hillary up five:
Hillary Clinton won the second debate and leads Donald Trump by five points in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that also shows voters perceive the Republican Party bitterly divided four weeks before Election Day.
Clinton leads Trump in the four-way race for the presidency among likely voters, 42 percent to 37 percent, with Gary Johnson at 10 percent and Jill Stein at three percent. In the initial two-way ballot, Clinton’s lead is also five points, 46 percent to 41 percent.
That sounds bad until one checks out the results from the previous week. Prior to both the tape and the debate, Hillary led Trump 42/36 in the four-way race, and by seven points head-to-head, 46/39. The differences between the two polls are all in the margin of error, but in both races, Trump actually edged upward from last week.
What does that mean? It could have meant that Trump won the debate and mitigated the damage from the tape, but the poll itself shows that respondents viewed Hillary as the winner by a 42/28 margin. The results seem to indicate that while voters think Trump’s remarks were despicable, the tape didn’t change anyone’s minds about Trump himself, or the election.
If that’s the case, though, it’s not all good news for Republicans. The tape has saturated enough to reach 81% of respondents in this poll, and 40% say that Trump should have withdrawn. Another 46% believe it reflects Trump’s true views about women, and a narrow 43/41 plurality want other Republican leaders to repudiate Trump. Thirty-five percent say it will make them less likely to vote for a Republican who continues to support Trump, about which more in a moment.
What does that all mean? Taken together, it suggests that Trump is close to a ceiling of support. He’s not dropping down after the tape (and debate), but he doesn’t have much room to add voters now. The best case scenario for Trump is that the tape is the last big oppo hit and its impact fades, Hillary starts bleeding support from progressives as her speech transcripts keep rolling out, and Trump’s base is enough to win in a low-turnout election. Anything other than that and it’s almost certainly a loss for Trump.
On the Congressional question, prospects don’t look quite as dire for the GOP, although Politico paints them as such:
But in addition to Trump’s deficit — which is actually smaller in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll than in some other public surveys — there are other warning signs for Republicans. Democrats have a five-point on the generic congressional ballot, 44 percent to 39 percent. Three-quarters of all voters, and 76 percent of Republicans, say the GOP is divided today, compared with only 10 percent who say it is united.
The divided/united question is meaningless, and the generic ballot difference overstated. A five-point gap in this measure only suggests a minor advantage for Democrats, who routinely underperform this measure. They need to pick up 30 seats in order to win back the House, and the last time they managed that in 2006 (31 seats), they had generic-ballot leads nearing 20 points. Republicans might want those numbers to tighten up, but this result would keep them in firm command of the lower chamber — and it doesn’t appear that Trump’s impacting that either.