THE MORNING PLUM:
Political commentators often debate whether this or that candidate has the mystical quality known as “authenticity.” The rules that dictate whether a candidate is accorded this quality are often arbitrary (George W. Bush’s brush-clearing helped earn it for him) and the political science tells us the importance of such personal attributes is overstated. But we are apparently stuck with such chatter forever.
Guess who is emerging as the “authenticity” candidate in 2016, at least among Republican voters? Donald Trump. And this puts a new spin on the meaning and virtues of “authenticity.”
In a remarkable finding buried in the new New York Times/CBS poll, it turns out that a huge majority of GOP primary voters, 76 percent, believe Trump “says what he believes,” rather than saying “what people want to hear.” The only other credible GOP candidate who comes anywhere near this is Ted Cruz, at 60 percent. Now, it seems excruciatingly obvious, at least to me, that Trump doesn’t believe much of anything, and is making it up as he blusters along. But Republican primary voters seem to disagree.
Which raises the question: What do GOP voters mean when they say Trump is telling them what he believes, and is that fueling his support?
A new, separate CBS News poll perhaps helps shed some light on that question: it finds that 54 percent of Republican respondents support temporarily banning Muslims. What’s more, 60 percent of Republican respondents favor a federal government-run database on Muslims. And 55 percent of Republican respondents say Islam encourages violence more than other religions do. (Among all Americans, 58 percent oppose a Muslim ban and a majority disagrees that Islam encourages more violence, but they are distressingly split on a Muslim database.)
Trump has said we must temporarily ban all Muslim non-citizens from entering the U.S. He has floated the ideas of closing mosques and creating a Muslim registry. He has suggested thousands of American Muslims celebrated 9/11. And he has called for mass deportations (which polls show Republican voters also support). All of this, Trump tells us, must be undertaken as part of the quest to “make America great again.” What if many Trump supporters back him precisely because they think he actually believes these things, and find that to be refreshingly authentic?
In fairness, a new NBC/WSJ poll find that Republicans are more split on Trump’s Muslim ban proposal than the CBS poll suggests. But still, large swaths of GOP voters agree with that idea and much, much more from Trump. It’s hard to know whether this stuff is really what is driving Trump’s support, and it still remains likely that he will fade. But a whole lot of Republican voters seem to be embracing what might loosely be called Trumpism, and are perhaps captivated by the notion that he authentically believes all of the things he is saying. And that may well remain as a major factor in GOP presidential primary politics even after he’s gone.
* REPUBLICANS HOLDING FIRM ON SYRIAN REFUGEES? With the deadline for a government shutdown looming, the Wall Street Journal reports on the latest in the budget talks, which are now straying over the deadline:
Mr. Ryan has repeatedly said that Democrats would need to accept some GOP policy measures, known as “riders,” attached to the spending bill. Among other demands, Republicans are pushing to…halt the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq while the administration overhauls the refugee-vetting process. The new speaker’s willingness to hold out beyond the Dec. 11 deadline has already persuaded some House Republicans he is holding a firmer line than his predecessor.
On the other hand, Politico suggests that some Republicans are resigned to not getting what they want when it comes to restricting the refugees, because Dems appear to be holding firm. This one appears very much up in the air.
* BIG TRADE DEAL MAY BE TOAST — AT LEAST FOR NOW: The Post reports that Mitch McConnell is now saying that there shouldn’t be a vote on the big Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal before the 2016 election, and possibly not until after Barack Obama leaves office:
“But I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election. There’s significant pushback all over the place.”
That might actually come as a relief to some of the GOP candidates who support the deal, and might have to deal with attacks over it from Trump, who opposes it as part of his “populist” pitch.
* HOW LATEST DEM GUN PROPOSAL REALLY WORKS: The Democrats’ new proposal to ban transfers of guns to people the government sees as terror suspects is bewilderingly complex. Michelle Lee has a very good, detailed explainer on how the proposal really works, one that if anything should raise more Constitutional concerns, not fewer.
* TRUMP-MENTUM RAGES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: A new WBUR poll finds Trump’s lead in New Hampshire continues to expand: He has 27 percent of likely GOP primary voters, while Chris Christie has 12 percent; Marco Rubio has 11 percent; and Ted Cruz has 10 percent.
Christie is rising, which could perhaps complicate Rubio’s hopes for a strong showing here. Also note that the non-Trump candidates appear to be essentially tied, suggesting the pile-up could help Trump by dividing up the non-Trump vote. Needless to say, his call for a Muslim-ban isn’t hurting here.
* GOP INSIDERS FEAR TRUMP INDEPENDENT RUN: Politico’s latest survey of GOP insiders in the early nominating state finds:
Roughly 4 in 5 GOP insiders, 79 percent, said it would be either “impossible” or “very difficult” for the Republican nominee to win the general election if Trump launches a third-party bid, based on electoral math and a general inability for the party’s nominee to focus on the Democratic competitor.
You’d better take care to treat Trump fairly, Republicans!
* REPUBLICANS HELPED CREATE TRUMP: Paul Krugman writes today that for all the handwringing among Republicans about the rise of Trump, the GOP has spent decades tacitly nurturing the attitudes that have fueled that rise:
The Republican Party hasn’t tried to freeze out the kind of people who vote National Front in France. Instead, it has tried to exploit them, mobilizing their resentment via dog whistles to win elections….along comes Donald Trump, saying bluntly the things establishment candidates try to convey in coded, deniable hints, and sounding as if he really means them. And he shoots to the top of the polls. Shocking, yes, but hardly surprising.
So inconvenient, too!
* AND THE VOTER QUOTE OF THE DAY: This, from the New York Times write-up of the new NYT/CBS poll, is illuminating on Trump’s appeal:
“He’ll keep a sharp eye on those Muslims,” Bettina Norden, 60, a farmer in Springfield, Ore., said in a follow-up interview. “He’ll keep the Patriot Act together. He’ll watch immigration. Stop the Muslims from immigrating.”
Our polling has found overlap between those worried about immigration and those worried about Muslims. Also note this voter’s desire to maintain a surveillance state.