Why, oh why, does a self-promoting buffoon like Donald Trump continue to lead the GOP field among Republican voters? There’s been a great deal of pundit hand-wringing about this question. David Brooks argues this morning that Trump’s “allure” is rooted in how voters “feel,” i.e., “alienated,” “frustrated,” and “angry.”

No doubt that has something to do with it. But here’s another possibility: what if a key source of his appeal is that a lot of Republican voters agree with what he’s saying about the issues?

A new CBS News poll finds that Trump continues to lead his rivals among Republican primary voters nationally. Notably, a huge majority of them is confident in Trump’s ability to handle illegal immigration:

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Majorities of Republican primary voters nationwide express confidence in Trump, Bush, Rubio and Walker to make the right decisions on the economy, illegal immigration and dealing with America’s adversaries.
Seventy-one percent of these voters are confident in Trump on economic decisions, and 65 percent are confident in his ability to make decisions on illegal immigration.

Trump fares higher on this issue than the other major GOP candidates: For Scott Walker, it’s 52 percent; for Marco Rubio, it’s 57 percent; and for Jeb Bush, it’s 58 percent. Those numbers are also pretty high (all of them have lurched rightward on the issue). But Trump’s numbers are highest. Given that he has vowed to carry out the deportation of all the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, and has said he’ll charge Mexico $100,000 for every one of them, you’d think that might merit a bit of notice.

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As you regulars know, I think it’s unfair to caricature the views of GOP voters as nothing more than raging xenophobia, as some have done. As I’ve argued — with the help of a GOP pollster — it’s perfectly plausible that GOP voters can be brought around to legalization if they are led through the moral and practical complexities surrounding the problem of the 11 million. Indeed, some polls have shown that surprisingly large numbers of them already do favor some kind of legalization. The CBS poll cited above does, too, which is interesting, given the confidence in Trump on the issue.

So it’s possible that large numbers of Republicans are confident in Trump on illegal immigration because he’s speaking effectively to a general sense of dissatisfaction over it, and not because of his actual positions. I don’t claim to fully grasp the source of Trump’s appeal. But the possibility that plenty of Republicans simply agree with his specific pronouncements and positions, such as they are, should at least be entertained. A recent Fox News poll found that 70 percent of Republicans think Trump was basically right in sentiment when he classified immigrants (some, not all! only some!) as drug-dealers and rapists. A recent CNN poll found that 63 percent of Republicans think the focus of immigration policy should be on securing the border and “deporting those already here.”

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You’d think the true nature of the overlap between Trump’s actual views and those of the GOP primary electorate might make for a good topic for chin-stroking commentators to dig into, since by all indications, the Trump media-palooza is going to continue.

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UPDATE: Here’s another poll showing GOP voters agree with Trump: A recent YouGov survey found that 67 percent of Republicans agree with his statement about Mexico sending us drug dealers and rapists — 40 percent strongly.

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An important ally in the effort was the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative advocacy group that pushes policy through state legislatures. At a July meeting in San Diego, ALEC’s energy committee…enacted a model bill designed to directly support state attorneys general who legally challenge the climate change plan…the bill would allow states to create funds, which could be funded by corporate donations, to support legal challenges to the climate change rules.

Is there anything comparable to ALEC on the climate advocates’ side?

* CLIMATE FIGHT CREATES DILEMMA FOR VULNERABLE REPUBLICANS: National Journal reports that Obama’s roll-out of new carbon reduction rules has put vulnerable purple state Senators, who are mostly Republicans, in a difficult spot: opposing the rules risks turning off independent and Dem voters that might be key to winning reelection next year in states carried by Obama.

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Senators Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Michael Bennet (he’s a Dem, but Colorado is a fracking state) all say climate change is real. Now Ayotte has not yet taken a position on the new climate rules. Imagine that: a Republican not reflexively opposing an Obama policy!

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 * HILLARY’S FAVORABILITY DECLINES SHARPLY: A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds:

Just 37 percent of all Americans have a positive view of Clinton, versus 48 percent who have a negative view (-11). That’s a sharp drop since June, when the NBC/WSJ poll showed her with a 44 percent positive, 40 negative rating (+4) — so an overall 15-point swing.

The only good news for Clinton is that the GOP candidates fare worse: Jeb Bush’s favorable rating is 26 percent, and Scott Walker’s is 19 percent.

* HILLARY LOSING GROUND AMONG WHITE WOMEN? The Wall Street Journal brings us a key nugget from the new NBC/WSJ poll:

In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found.

Dems hope Clinton can reconstitute the Obama coalition of millennials, minorities and college educated whites, but expand on it by doing better among non-college and/or college-educated white women. So this bears watching.

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* PLANNED PARENTHOOD POLLS WELL: With Republicans launching an all-out assault on Planned Parenthood in the wake of the undercover fetal tissue videos, the NBC/WSJ poll asked Americans whether they view a range of institutions favorably. Planned Parenthood won out, with favorably ratings of 45-30.

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That’s higher than the NRA (43-32) the Democratic Party (38-38) or the Republican Party (28-44).

* GOP ATTACK ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD BLOCKED: The Washington Post has a good overview of the latest: Democrats filibustered a Republican vote in the Senate to defund the organization. The big picture:

Defunding Planned Parenthood is now a centerpiece of the Republican agenda going into the summer congressional recess, and some hard-liners have said they are willing to force a government shutdown in October if federal support for the group is not curtailed.

This will only be stoked by the fact that number of GOP Senators are running for president — and looking to boost their appeal with conservative voters who are cheering on the defund-PP push.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, SUCKER-BORN-EVERY-MINUTE EDITION: Also from the above Post story, Ted Cruz has this to say about the possibility that the Planned Parenthood showdown could lead to a government shutdown:

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“I think that is an excellent question for you to ask every Democrat, if they are willing to try to shut down the government in order to force continued taxpayer funding from an organization that has now been caught on film apparently admitting to multiple felonies.”

Cruz is actually suggesting — again — that Dems will take the blame for the shutdown this time, no really, they really will! Cruz, apparently, can count on his followers not to remember that he repeatedly assured them in the past that this would work. And, you know, it didn’t.

* TRUMP CONTINUES TO DOMINATE: A new Bloomberg poll finds that Donald Trump continues to surge among Republicans nationally: He has 21 percent, with Jeb Bush in second at 10 percent, and Scott Walker at eight percent.

One GOP voter sums up Trump’s appeal: “He has the balls to stand up against the career politicians.” One imagines this trait will be on full display at Thursday’s GOP debate; it’ll be interesting to see where the polls go after that.

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