No, I didn’t watch the Republican debate last night, so I’m not going to talk about that.   Here is a pretty good short discussion by Josh Marshall, if you’re interested.

I thought, instead, that I would devote this post to some reassuring words about the Trump phenomenon, since so many of my friends are seriously worried by the rise of this ominous figure in American politics. There is good reason to be appalled at Trump’s success, but, while I would never counsel complacency, there is no reason for despair.

One point to keep in mind is that the polls showing Trump leading all Republican candidates for president are polls of a particular portion of the electorate.   The polls seek to determine preferences among Republican voters, a category that can be defined in various ways but that certainly doesn’t exceed 45% of total voters even when Republican-leaning independents are counted in. So, with Trump now at around 35% in those polls, on the average, it means that Trump has gained his dominant position in the Republican field by winning the allegiance of only about 16% of American voters.

Of course, if nominated for president, Trump could count on a lot more than 16% of the vote, but the fact is that as far as we can tell at this point in time, he would be the GOP’s very weakest candidate for president. You wouldn’t know it from all the hoopla surrounding his candidacy, but Trump is the most unpopular politician in the country.   Take a look at these favorability/unfavorabilty ratings.

Republican favorability among all voters, average since Nov. 1

 Candidate                      Favorable        Unfavorable      Net Favorable

Ben Carson                          37%                     37%                       0

Marco Rubio                        34                        35                        -1

Ted Cruz                               32                        39                        -7

Jeb Bush                               29                         51                      -22

Donald Trump                     33                         58                     -25

At a net unfavorability rating of 25%, Trump “leads” all other Republicans, none of whom, incidentally, scores better than zero. (The corresponding numbers for the Democrats put Hillary Clinton at a negative 11%–far “behind” Trump. The only candidate in the whole field to come out with a plus rating is Bernie Sanders, at +3%.)

Here’s another interesting set of numbers: Only 30% of Americans say they would be comfortable with Donald Trump in the White House; 69% say the idea makes them anxious, for a net anxiety score of 39%.  None of the other leading candidates in either party inspires anything approaching the same level of anxiety as does Trump.    Hillary Clinton, with all the baggage she carries, has a net anxiety score of just 5%.

You see: the American people aren’t as crazy as you might think.  Lincoln, after all, knew what he was talking about:

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”







  1. Jeffrey Herrmann January 31, 2016 at 3:55 am

    Another aspect that separates the people who are being polled from the general population is that they have accepted the annoying and inconvenient intrusion of a stranger on the phone who wants to ask personal questions. The poll subjects are on average much more “politically engaged” than the general population. It is anybody’s guess who Joe Dontmuchcare will vote for when the nominations are sorted out.
    To me, the biggest surprise has been the failure of the Plutocrats who are used to controlling the Repugnican nomination process to squelch Trump. What’s the point of being a Koch if your billions can’t buy you the politician you want?
    It looks like Trump is going to take Iowa, and if he is somehow denied the Repugnican nomination, why would those who admire him go to the polls and vote for his antithesis?

  2. Nelson Farber February 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Tony, I am obviously heartened by last night’s Iowa result. While I have no love for Rubio and certainly not Cruz, we may have just dodged a bullet by their concerted vote totals.

    There are – or at least were up until last night – two parallel, highly conceivable universes. In the first, Trump blitzkriegs to the nomination and presidency. In the other, the schoolyard bully is punched back in the face and deconstructs. I now believe we are in the stages of the latter scenario occurring, judging by the latest tweets (blaming voters for not appreciating his self-financing), which indicate a psychologically deconstructing candidate.

    Last week we were in New Hampshire profiling Trump for German TV. Here is the link to the TV piece, in German:

    We saw a core of supporters who met all the stereotypes of what you would expect in a Trump voter, but also broader support amongst intelligent and capable people, like the young lady we profiled. Had Trump won in Iowa, I believe that his bandwagon would have grown. As of this writing, I believe there is a good chance that he will not win in NH as well, at which point he may even drop out, blaming the voters, the media and everyone else but himself.

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