Senator Lindsey Graham continues to win plaudits for the remarkable, off-the-cuff speech he delivered yesterday, in which he excoriated his party’s extremism on immigration as political suicide. Graham said the route to winning the White House is not to maximize GOP base turnout, but rather to halt “the incredibly hateful rhetoric driving a wall between us and the fastest growing demographic in America,” i.e., Latinos. Graham added that “most” of those who come here illegally “are good,” and mocked the idea (embraced by Donald Trump) of “forced deportation.”
“We’re literally gonna round ’em up. That sound familiar to you?” Graham said. “You think you’re gonna win an election with that kind of garbage?” Graham also said: “I believe we’re losing the Hispanic vote, because they think we don’t like them.”
Unfortunately for Graham, a new CNN national poll out this morning — which shows Trump continuing to dominate — finds that a majority of Republicans want what Graham described as “forced deportations.” Even more striking, two thirds of Trump’s supporters want this. The CNN poll asks:
Do you think the government should attempt to deport all people currently living in the United States illegally or should the government not attempt to do that?
A majority (53 percent) of Republicans and GOP leaners think the government should attempt to deport “all” those here illegally. Among Trump supporters, 67 percent agree. Among Americans overall, the numbers are the other way around: They oppose this by 63-35.
This is in sync with our polling, which has found a lot of overlap between Trump backers and those who support mass deportations and want to bar the entry of Syrian refugees. It is also in sync with polls earlier this year that found large percentages of GOP voters agree with Trump’s various immigration pronouncements and prescriptions.
All this underscores once again the dilemma the GOP establishment faces as it seeks to deal with Trump. That much-balleyhooed memo penned by the GOP strategist who oversees the party’s efforts to hold the Senate politely admits that Trump has “connected” with voters on the issue of “America’s broken borders.” But it dances around what this really means. It only suggests gamely that GOP candidates should “avoid” Trump’s “extreme positioning,” while advising them not to “insult key voter cohorts” by ignoring that Trump has identified real voter anxieties, which the candidates should find cleaner ways to address. In other words, GOP candidates must figure out a less politically self-destructive way to appeal to the same impulses Trump has tapped.
But all of this polling suggests at least the possibility that many Republican voters are responding to Trump precisely because he is speaking to these voter anxieties with unvarnished xenophobia and maximal solutions such as “rounding ’em all up,” as Graham puts it. But GOP establishment figures need to be careful in addressing the possibility that Trump’s appeal may be rooted in naked racial and bigoted appeals. (As Brian Beutler has noted, this constrains GOP establishment figures, rendering them inevitably complicit in Trump’s continued dominance.) What makes Graham’s speech so remarkable is that he’s blowing through the niceties and shedding a harsh light on what may really be happening here — demonstrating by example what other GOP establishment figures might be doing, but aren’t.
What does all this mean? It’s hard to say. Perhaps these voters are responding to Trump for many other reasons as well. Perhaps there just aren’t enough of them for him to win the nomination (an outcome I still view as extremely unlikely). After all, we don’t know who will vote and who won’t. It’s also unclear precisely how Trump’s appeal works. In a thoughtful piece dissecting Trumpism, Ross Douthat floats dual ideas: Yes, Trump is engaged in “dark” demagoguing about “immigrant threats,” but he may also be tapping into “reasonable skepticism about the bipartisan consensus favoring ever more mass low-skilled immigration.” Both those things can simultaneously be true. But there’s no getting around the fact that Trump’s rhetoric and solutions are unequivocally, explicitly, even deliberately vile and xenophobic, and that many Republican voters may be responding to precisely that aspect of them.
If Trump does fade, maybe the GOP establishment will be spared the unpleasant task of reckoning seriously with what that means and how to deal with it. But it’s always possible he won’t fade anytime soon.
* TRUMP CONTINUES TO DOMINATE: The CNN poll finds that Trump continues to dominate among Republicans and GOP leaners nationally: He has 36 percent; Ted Cruz has 16 percent; Ben Carson has 14 percent; and Marco Rubio has 12 percent. Here is what has happened to Carson’s supporters:
Cruz (up 12 points) and Trump (up 9 points) are the greatest beneficiaries of those declines. Rubio is also up slightly, gaining 4 points — an increase within the poll’s margin of sampling error — since the last CNN/ORC poll.
Cruz is scooping up the largest share of Carson supporters, and Rubio is getting little of the spoils. This suggests the Cruz surge may be happening, and also that a Cruz-Rubio brawl to be the alternative to Trump is likely.
* REPUBLICANS THINK TRUMP IS ELECTABLE: One last tidbit from the new CNN poll:
A majority of Republican voters say they see Trump as the candidate with the best chances to win the general election next November (52% say Trump has the best chances there, compared with 15% for Rubio, 11% for Cruz and 10% for Carson).
As I keep repeating, Republican voters may be starting to see Trump as a plausible nominee.
* ANOTHER GOOD JOBS REPORT: The November jobs numbers are in: “Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 211,000 in November, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent.”
Meanwhile, the last two months were revised upwards by a total of 35,000 jobs. It must be the new GOP Congress, restoring confidence.
* STILL NO CLEAR MOTIVE IN CALIFORNIA SHOOTING: The Los Angeles Times quotes a government official saying that the lead suspected gunman was in contact with a small number of suspected extremists and one potential terror suspect. However:
But Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee who has been briefed on the investigation, said Thursday that federal agents have yet to turn up evidence that Farook was “radicalized.”
Schiff added that, based on his briefing, officials are “looking for any evidence of radicalization” but are “not ready to draw conclusions.”
* CLINTON TEAM WANTS NATIONAL SECURITY DEBATE: This is counterintuitive: The Hill reports today that the Clinton campaign is actually confident that a debate over national security might favor her.
Preposterous! Never mind polls showing she holds the advantage on terrorism over all her GOP rivals. Republicans are certain that an increased focus on national security will favor them, and everyone knows outward GOP confidence that an issue will give them the edge always proves right.
* HILLARY GAINS OVER SANDERS: Gallup reports this morning:
Hillary Clinton’s net favorable rating among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in November averaged 21 percentage points higher than Sanders’, up from a 13-point advantage in September and early October.
Looks like the email scandal hasn’t quite done her in yet.
* AND REPUBLICANS ARE FINALLY REPEALING OBAMACARE: The Senate voted last night to repeal large parts of Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. The Post observes this about the politics of the vote:
While a boon to conservative senators running for president, it could jeopardize some of their GOP colleagues running for reelection in swing states in 2016.
Of course, moderate GOP Senators from states Obama won could vote for this, secure in the knowledge that it will be vetoed and thus that the law’s benefits won’t actually be taken from their constituents.