The Trump Donut: A Big Hole in the Middle

It may be anecdotal, and perhaps Markos is putting a little too much emphasis on one data point, but it’s worth noting the results of the latest Marquette poll out of Wisconsin. It shows both Hillary Clinton and Russ Feingold winning there, but the unusual thing is that they’re both doing better with likely voters than with registered voters. As Markos says, this is “like flushing toilets suddenly reversing direction, or gravity working up instead of down. This doesn’t happen.”

Democrats are the ones who do better when turnout is higher, not the the other way around. But the polls shows that Hillary’s seven percent lead with registered voters jumps to a nine point lead with likely voters, and Feingold’s four point lead with registered voters likewise jumps to a nine point lead with likely voters.

Is it possible that Trump is depressing enthusiasm in the Republican base?

If this is happening in Wisconsin it still could be an isolated phenomenon, since we know that Trump fell flat on his face during the Badger State primary. He was shunned by right-wing radio there and he’s no friend of Governor Scott Walker. Plus, his high profile disagreements with Speaker Paul Ryan can’t help.

On the other hand, as Jeff Greenfield points out in a long Politico piece today, it’s beginning to look like Trump is losing even the tepid support of the Republican Establishment.

There’s another reason raising character questions about a fellow party member is problematic: Firing harsh judgments about character across party lines is relatively cost-free; attacking “one of your own” can come at serious political cost.

And that’s what makes the retreat from Trump among so many Republican officeholders all the more remarkable. Even if the idea of changing the convention rules to “unbind” delegates and deprive Trump of the nomination is fanciful, the “non-endorsements,” “rescissions” and Talmudic “I’ll support but not endorse” adds up to something close to astonishing.

It is also a sharp reminder that Trump’s triumph in the primaries, and the prospect that he will lure disaffected Democrats and armies of first-time voters to the polls, may obscure a counterpoint: A striking number of committed Republicans and conservatives, including donors, operatives and foot soldiers, are prepared to withhold their support, their money and their votes that would have gone to any other Republican nominee.

Unlike so many in the GOP base, who see in Trump’s behavior a fearless willingness to take on a corrupt political system, these Republicans are seeing signs that he is a dangerous figure, not for what he thinks, but for who he is. And no amount of speeches read from a Teleprompter reciting anodyne pieties is likely to change that.

I’ll save my thoughts on this for another piece, but here’s a teaser. While it has certainly seemed like Clinton has moved to the left to confront the challenge on her flank from Bernie Sanders, there is now such fertile ground in the center that she may be able to collect up a lot of disaffected voters from the center-right.

These two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but they do create a certain tension. Can Clinton solidify her left flank at the same time that she reassures the middle that she’s the proper steward for our country right now?

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