Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning to push back against the GOP officials calling for him to drop out of the race in the aftermath of his lewd-video scandal.
“So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers — and elections — go down!” he exclaimed.
Trump posted that tweet shortly after sharing messages from supporters railing against Republican “traitors” for bailing on their own party’s nominee.
and Josh Marshall
Yesterday I noted that there were two conversations going on in the GOP. One is party elites and officeholders finally distancing themselves or fully cutting ties with Donald Trump. The other is GOP voters themselves. They only started to make themselves heard yesterday afternoon when they booed and heckled Paul Ryan, Nevada Senate candidate Joe Heck and others in afternoon rallies. We can now see them in a fuller light in the first post-Trump Tape poll.
The poll is from Politico and Morning Consult. I've stated elsewhere that I'm somewhat skeptical of the methodology used by MC and some similar digital pollsters. But in this case we're not talking about matters of a few percentage points in a horse race poll but rather a very broad brush look at immediate public reactions to the tape. The upshot is that while GOP elites may finally be done with Trump they appear not to speak, even remotely, for base Republican voters. According to the Politico/MC poll, only 12% of Republicans want Trump to drop out of the race. And 74% say party leaders should continue to stand behind him.
There are various permutations of these numbers in the poll - how negatively people felt watching the video, how they feel about Trump personally, etc. But they all echo the point from those first two numbers. Republican voters aren't done with Trump, not remotely. And they overwhelmingly want party leaders to stand behind him.
The political drama of the last two days reminds me of those days in the Spring when #NeverTrump Republicans were spinning out theories about how they were going to use this or that trick to deny Trump the nomination. All great plans except for the fact that they hadn't taken into account that the people who they count on for votes did want Trump. In the end none of it came to anything after Republican elites (and I use the term here in the purely descriptive sense of the word) made contact with their voters.
Yesterday evening, after I watched more of the heckling and saw Trump fixing on the same as a show of support for him, it occurred to me that the presidential race's impact on Congress could be dramatically greater than we've imagined. This isn't a matter of people being so deeply outraged about the tape. It's more structural than that. The party leadership, at least as of last night, is in the midst of abandoning Trump. They're not quite there yet. But they're close. They probably saw overnight polls crating on Friday. I've seen various reports of private campaign polls registering this as a first response to the tape. It's worth remembering that even 10% of Republicans moving away from Trump would show up in a big way on those reports. But seeing those polls, retreating to their own instinctive suspicion and in many cases hostility toward Trump, they didn't give a lot of immediate thought to where the bulk of their voters stand. This poll makes pretty clear - as the booing and heckling did anecdotally - that they're with Trump.
With this in mind, think about this scenario. Just to be clear, I'm not making a prediction here, just throwing out some hypotheticals to play with.
Imagine the following – – For lack of a better word let's call it a meme – – takes hold among hard-core Trump supporters angry at these Republican defections.
The idea being that you should still show up to the polls and vote, but when you get to a race where the Republican candidate has offended you, you leave that section blank. I'm not saying this is likely, but it's not exactly unimaginable at the moment either. If emotions continue to run high or even intensify, one could easily picture this sort of thing happening either from the bottom up or from the top down.
Let's think about the second possibility. Is anyone out there prepared to say with absolute confidence that Donald Trump is incapable of standing up at a rally in, say, Arizona and telling his supporters "if you don't like either of the candidates for the [pause] I don't know, senate race, you can just leave it blank."
I don't think this is particularly likely, but stranger things have certainly happened over the past 12 months.
There's a much bigger topic here (way to big for a Sunday afternoon post) about range of data and model stability and the way that chaotic conditions and unsustainable situations can make what was unthinkable merely unlikely.