A batch of new polls — CNN, ABC/Washington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Monmouth — gives us a pretty strong glimpse at the current state of American politics. And it’s probably making the Hillary Clinton campaign pretty happy.
Every poll that asks the question shows that Clinton significantly strengthened her grip on the Democratic nomination with her performance in the recent debate. In the ABC poll, for example, she picked up 12 percentage points and now leads Sen. Bernie Sanders by 31 percentage points.
That same poll reports that Barack Obama’s job performance is now viewed favorably by 51 percent of American voters, up 11 points since a year ago and the first time since May 2013 that his numbers have topped 50 percent. That’s important in its own right, but it also highlights the gaping chasm between the American mainstream perception of Obama and the GOP’s perception of him as the most reviled politician in the last half century if not the anti-Christ himself.
The more they preach that message, the more they are driven by it, the crazier they make themselves appear.
Speaking of crazy, every new poll shows Donald Trump either maintaining pace or picking up steam among Republican voters, with Ben Carson a close second. The NBC poll, for example, shows Trump with 25 percent of the GOP primary vote, his highest total yet in that poll.
Today, 59 percent of Republican primary voters can now see themselves supporting Trump; just a month ago, 51 percent said they could not. The man is doing something right. More astounding to me, 74 percent say they could see themselves supporting Carson, a candidate who has failed to educate himself on even the basics of national policy but is paying no price for it.
But Trump of course remains the main story. As Byron York writes, “This weekend was an inflection point in the Republican presidential race — a moment in which some significant part of the GOP establishment came out of denial and realized Donald Trump might well become their party’s nominee.” As a result, York reports, preparations are underway for “an extraordinary scenario in which GOP stalwarts go to war to destroy their own party’s likely nominee.”
While that prospect sounds entertaining, other poll numbers cast doubt on how effective that effort is likely to be. Forced to pick between the GOP establishment and Trump, Republican primary voters may very well pick Trump. According to the ABC poll, for example, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of the Republicans in Congress, which is ominous. But 51 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of conservatives also disapprove of congressional Republicans — that’s the deep dissatisfaction that Trump is expertly mining for support.
“Approval ratings for the congressional Republicans are essentially the same as they were a year ago. Approval ratings for the Democrats are up by 5 points, with disapproval down by 8. Obama, as noted, has gained 11 points in approval the past year – a period in which unemployment has dropped and consumer confidence has gained substantially.”
In short, the polls tell us, internal GOP dynamics are pushing congressional Republicans into a bitter confrontation with Obama at a time when their own numbers are abysmal and his have seldom been stronger. That may not sound like a strategy for success, but I’m not sure that success is really what the GOP base is seeking.
As political theorist Isaiah Berlin put it, describing another set of extremists, they’re putting “the satisfaction of their own emotional needs above the attainable goals of the cause which they supported.”