Opinion writer

A new CNN poll released this morning finds that Trump-mentum is raging across the land. His national lead among Republicans has jumped eight points since last month, to 32 percent. Ben Carson has 19 percent; Jeb Bush has nine percent; Ted Cruz has seven percent, and Scott Walker limps in with 5 percent.

But perhaps the most notable CNN poll finding is that the percentage of Republicans who now say illegal immigration is “extremely important” to them is way up. And Trump is absolutely dominating among those particular voters:

Trump’s growth in the field has also come alongside an increase in attention to the issue of illegal immigration.

A majority of Republicans now call the issue extremely important to their vote for president; 51% now call it extremely important, up from 39% in a June CNN/ORC poll. Among that group, Trump holds a wide lead, with 42% support compared with 17% for Carson, 10% for Cruz, 9% for Bush and 5% for Walker.

Trump has talked about illegal immigration more than any other topic. Trump’s suggestion that Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists; his vow to deport 11 million people and build a wall on the Mexican border; his contemptuous ridicule of Jeb Bush’s suggestion that illegal immigrants might have something positive to contribute to American life and of Bush’s efforts to communicate in their language — all have received sustained national press attention.

We already knew Trump’s pronouncements and prescriptions on illegal immigration might be helping fuel his appeal. Poll after poll after poll has shown that large numbers of Republicans agree with those specific pronouncements and prescriptions.

While you should always be cautious about over-interpreting one poll, today’s CNN survey raises a new possibility: That Trump’s attention to illegal immigration is making GOP voters more concerned about it than they might otherwise be. And when I say “more concerned,” I mean, “concerned about it in the way that Trump is concerned about it.” Trump is telling the tale that immigrants are to blame for the suffering of American workers. GOP voters just might be listening. That increased concern, in turn, may be leading those voters to support Trump in disproportionate numbers. The monster is feeding on itself. Mwahahahaha!!!

After the 2012 election, Republican leaders widely agreed that they had to put this issue behind them — fast. As Jonathan Chait has noted: “The Republican brain trust hoped to resolve its image problem with Latino and Asian-American voters by passing immigration reform as quickly as possible.” This would have entailed resolving a deep split among Republicans over how to do that. Some Republicans warned at the time that the failure to resolve that split could create precisely the conditions that could give rise to a figure who would furiously demagogue on immigration and capture a sizable chunk of the GOP primary electorate. Enter Donald Trump, a far worse nightmare than the “Republican brain trust” anticipated. Now he’s helping make this issue into more of a preoccupation of GOP voters.

In fairness, it’s hard to say how important immigration is to all this. The CNN poll also finds Trump surging among many GOP demographics, suggesting his appeal might have multiple causes. But the big jump in the number of Republicans who now see immigration as extremely important — and Trump’s dominance among them — are hard to ignore.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump released a detailed immigration plan, and its "great, great wall" is just the beginning. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

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* HOUSE GOP DEVELOPS PLAN ON IRAN DEAL, SORT OF: As expected, the Post reports that House Republicans have now settled on a plan to hold three votes on the Iran deal. Those three votes are…

a resolution indicating that Obama did not meet his obligations to send all relevant negotiating documents to Congress; a bill blocking Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran; and a separate measure approving of the deal, which is expected to fail.

No vote on a resolution disapproving of the deal, because this will (somehow) make it easier to sue the White House over its alleged failure to share all the deal’s details with Congress. As noted yesterday, this deprives Republicans of the slim messaging victory they might have won if both chambers had voted to disapprove of it.

* THE PROBLEM WITH GOP’S NEW IRAN STRATEGY: Republicans claim Obama didn’t share Iran “side deals” with Congress, meaning the clock never started on its deliberations over the deal, making it illegal for Obama to proceed now. But as David Herszenhorn notes:

Administration officials have repeatedly said an agreement between Iran and the atomic agency over past nuclear research at a military facility called Parchin was not connected to the deal made by Iran and six world powers to contain its nuclear program. The energy agency, which has long had a role in monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, is not covered by Congress’s Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and the White House does not have the documents Republicans have demanded, administration officials have said in public hearings and private, classified sessions.

But the point of embracing this new strategy is not to actually block the deal. It’s to create the impression that GOP leaders are doing everything they can to block it, to make the base happy.

* DEMS STILL NOT SURE THEY CAN FILIBUSTER IRAN BILL: Forty-two Senators have now backed the Iran deal, but Minority whip Dick Durbin is telling reporters that he is still not sure 41 of them will vote to filibuster the GOP resolution disapproving of the Iran deal.

If not, that would mean that it’s still possible (if the House drops its current strategy) we could see that disapproval resolution pass — forcing a veto-override fight. This isn’t quite over yet.

* BERNIE-MENTUM RAGES OUT OF CONTROL IN IOWA!!! A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Bernie Sanders is now effectively tied with Hillary Clinton among likely Iowa Dem caucus-goers, at 41-40. That’s a big swing from the 52-33 lead Clinton enjoyed in July.

Judging from the Twitters, the insta-pundit wisdom on this is that if Sanders somehow wins Iowa and New Hampshire, faith in Clinton’s ability to build a firewall in states with much more favorable demographics to her will plummet, and calls for a savior candidate will grow deafening.

* CALENDAR IS NOT FRIENDLY TO BIDEN: The Associated Press reports that even some Democrats who are sympathetic to Joe Biden don’t see how he can ramp up a presidential campaign in time, given the realities of the calendar:

For Democrats seeking the White House next year, the first filing deadlines loom at the beginning of November. New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary, has set its cutoff date as Nov. 18, with Florida following soon after. By New Year’s Day, more than 15 states will be off limits to candidates who haven’t taken the necessary steps to get on the ballot.

And the AP also notes that Biden may not make a decision until late October or early November. And so, for all the talk of a “savior” candidate stepping in, it’s not clear how that would happen.

* CONSERVATIVES ASSAIL JEB’S TAX PLAN: Jeb Bush’s tax plan would cut the top rate to 28 percent and clash rates on corporations, but the New York Times reports that conservatives are attacking it anyway, because it would also raise capital gains taxes. As one conservative puts it:

“No Republican should be for higher taxes on capital gains. This tax hike idea is supported by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.”

He left out Donald Trump, who has also called for raising the capital gains tax. We’re still waiting for Marco Rubio, who would eliminate capital gains taxes to help bartenders like his father, to attack these plans on the grounds that the real populist position is to cut taxes on the wealthy.

* AND JEB’S TAX PLAN WOULD EXPLODE DEFICIT: The Post runs the numbers:

Jeb Bush’s plan would cut rates for the rich, though not as ambitiously as many of his rivals’ proposals. It would end a favored break for Wall Street and free an estimated 15 million more lower-income Americans from paying federal income tax. By Bush’s advisers’ estimates, it would add between $1.2 trillion and $3.4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, depending on how much additional economic activity is spurred by the plan.

With even the rosiest estimate of runaway growth unleashed by tax cuts, the plan still adds over $1 trillion to the deficit. It’s almost as if deficits don’t actually matter or something.