Take spending cuts. It's table stakes in a Republican primary to talk about how you'll cut spending on Social Security and Medicare. The GOP's policy apparatus loathes both programs and considers their long-term cost to be among the most pressing economic threats facing the nation. Any Republican candidate who wants to be taken seriously by Republican Party elites needs to show they understand the urgency of cutting Social Security and Medicare spending.
One problem? Republican voters don't understand the urgency of cutting entitlement spending. In fact, they oppose cutting entitlement spending. More Republicans want to increase spending on Social Security and Medicare than decrease it. They think keeping entitlement benefits at current levels is more important than reducing the deficit.
Trump is the only Republican running who actually agrees with the GOP base on this one. "They're gonna cut Social Security. They're gonna cut Medicare. They're gonna cut Medicaid," he said on Fox & Friends. "I'm the one saying that's saying I'm not gonna do that!"It is very conventional to assume that the high polls garnered by Donald Trump are due to his more extreme statements. But in a world where "everyone" in politics agrees that social security needs to be cut, maybe that is the source of his popularity. After all, the median voter may or may not be impacted by a lot of the policy changes. But lots and lots of people will be impacted by a later retirement on less money.
So one interpretation of the polls might be that the Overton window has been shifted on this policy so far that it makes it possible for an outsider to show up. Even Democrats, like the current president, have been considering cuts to these programs.
This fits well with other recent discussions on this blog. After all, just protecting some popular programs might actually be what voters wants, and this would drive the elites crazy (as they are all convinced retirement is silly -- which it may well be when you have a high pay, fulfilling job).