Election 2020

How Low Can Trump Go?

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Those waiting for Donald Trump’s “pivot” to becoming a normal political candidate, and those waiting for his support to entirely crater so that Hillary is elected by acclamation, are both going to have a long wait:

After one of the worst weeks of his campaign, the Republican nominee only trails Hillary Clinton by eight points in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll of registered voters.

Last month — before both conventions, before he picked an unwinnable fight with Gold Star parents and before he spent days pointedly refusing to endorse a trio of top Republicans — Trump trailed by four points. (The margin of sampling error happens to be plus or minus 4 percent.)

Three in four registered voters disapproved of how the billionaire handled criticism from Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Just 13 percent approved of his back-and-forth with the Muslim American couple whose Army captain son was killed in Iraq.

This is about as one-sided as any assessment can get for a major-party candidate’s actions so close to a general election. Yet Trump still gets 42 percent to Clinton’s 50 percent in the horse race.

Um… the Khans picked a fight with Trump and used the memory of a man who’s been dead for twelve years as a stick with which to pound Trump’s entirely sensible proposal to examine Muslim immigration more carefully — something that is both constitutional and necessary. But on to the larger point:

Hillary and the krack kadres of kampaign konsultants can spend a fortune on media ad buys in order to drive up Trump’s negatives (already sky-high) and drive down his support, but the fact is, it won’t matter a bit. Trump has nowhere to go but up. And that is driving them crazy. Because:

— Clinton, like Trump, is historically unpopular.

The Democratic nominee’s favorability improved in the wake of her coronation in Philadelphia. She’s now viewed favorably by 46 percent of registered voters, up from 40 percent last month. But 52 percent still view her unfavorably. And most of those view her very unfavorably.

Six in 10 registered voters say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, and 65 percent say she’s too willing to bend the rules.

Most Republicans loathe Clinton. Six in 10 GOP voters in our poll say they are dissatisfied with their choices, and 56 percent of Trump’s supporters say they support him primarily because they oppose Clinton. Like many of the metrics mentioned above, this is unchanged from last month. (On the other side, half of Clinton’s voters say they are supporting her mainly to oppose Trump.)

Meanwhile, The Nation frets:

The final problem is one everyone knows: the uniqueness of Trump himself. All of political science is based on history, on the idea that patterns in the past will continue in the future. It makes sense: people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 are unlikely to vote for Trump this year. But Trump is so different from every other candidate in the recent past that pundits fear he could break out of the historic patterns of voting.

That’s pretty much what happened in the primaries, when so many experts said with great conviction that Trump couldn’t win. Their reasoning was strong: he had no ground game, no field operation working to get his supporters to the polls on election day; he had no TV ads, which candidates all consider essential; he wasn’t raising money, or spending it. He had no real campaign organization and no experience in politics. In the past, candidates like that never won. But of course the Republican primaries were different this time.

But here’s the thing: the problem with the predictions about the Republican primaries wasn’t actually the polls. The polls’ predictions were largely borne out by the results. In fact, the problem was that the pundits were ignoring the polls.

We’re in uncharted territory here folks; enjoy.