With less than a week to go before the first voting, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that Donald Trump continues to grow stronger. He sits high above his GOP rivals, with the support of 37 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents nationally. A majority of Trump supporters say they’ll definitely vote for him. Three out of four Republicans think Trump has the best chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, suggesting many GOP voters are coming to see him as a very plausible standard bearer.

But this one finding from the poll is worth some attention: Trump is absolutely dominating among GOP voters who think immigration weakens American society.

This perhaps underscores just how shrewdly Trump has employed his xenophobia and demagoguery to great political profit. Here it is in a chart, created by crack Post polling guru Scott Clement (click to enlarge):

Trump commands the support of 45 percent of Republican voters who think immigrants from other countries mainly weaken American society, and he enjoys the backing of 53 percent — a majority — of those who believe that strongly.

The narrative that immigrants weaken America is threaded through much of what Trump has said and proposed. Though Trump would surely dispute this, pointing out that he would let the “good ones” back in through the Great Door in the Great Wall he’ll erect on our southern border, Trump’s basic story for many months has been that immigrants should be the subject of fear and suspicion, as they represent a debilitating force, one that weakens our economy, culture, and national security.

Remember, Trump railed against millions of Mexican immigrants, legal or not, describing them as a criminal invasion, and he proposed a temporary ban against all non-citizen Muslims coming to the U.S., until we can “figure out what is going on.” Trump has endlessly repeated variations of that phrase, which actually means, “get a handle on the sinister dimensions of the threat the hordes really represent.” The attack ad Trump is running against Ted Cruz in Iowa proclaims that “people” are “pouring in,” causing “crime” and “tremendous damage,” with the result that “we don’t have borders right now,” which by extension means that “we don’t have a country right now.”

The last-ditch hope of those who recognize the danger posed to the GOP by Trump — and Cruz, who has flatly ruled out legalization and seems to be trying to appeal more craftily to some of the same sentiments that Trump is exploiting — is that they will somehow kill each other off. As David Brooks puts it today, it’s possible that Trump and Cruz “will make each other maximally unattractive and go down in each other’s death embrace.”

It’s certainly possible that this will happen. But our polling chart above shows that enormous majorities of Republican voters who think immigration weakens American society support Trump or Cruz. What happens to these now-unleashed Trumpian sentiments if Trump and Cruz do go down in a mutual death struggle? Where do they go?


UPDATE: I should have noted that our poll also shows that among GOP voters, half say immigrants mainly weaken American society. In other words, there are a lot of GOP voters who believe this, and Trump commands a very large share of them.


* GOP PANIC IS ON FULL BOIL: The New York Times reports that Republican elders are increasingly worried that time is running out to stop Donald Trump or Ted Cruz and want some “establishment” candidates to drop out so one alternative can emerge. But the Iowa and New Hampshire results could be so jumbled that this doesn’t happen:

But it is not clear that the Iowa and New Hampshire results will come so neatly, or that the also-rans will be so willing to drop out after two states. Mr. Bush, in particular, still has the support of a well-funded super PAC….Some in the party now concede that it might take until March or beyond for the Republican establishment to coalesce behind an alternative to the current front-runners. And that could be too late to catch either Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz.

And so, for far longer than expected, this could mostly be a two-man race between Trump and Cruz or possibly a race in which one of them takes a commanding lead early.

* TRUMP CONTINUES TO DOMINATE: Similar to the above Post poll: The new CNN poll finds that Trump has hit a new high of 41 percent among Republican voters nationally. And note this:

The poll also finds Trump is widely seen as the candidate best able to win in November: 63% of Republicans say so, compared with 16% who see Cruz as best positioned to win and 10% who name Rubio.

Have we mentioned that Republicans may be in the process of deciding that Trump is a plausible standard bearer?

* HILLARY HOLDS SIZABLE NATIONAL LEAD: The new CNN poll also finds that Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders among Democrats and Dem-leaning independents nationally by 52-38, though that lead has shrunk. Some details:

Women, non-whites, self-identified Democrats and those over age 50 are Clinton’s strongest backers. Men, white voters, independents who lean Democratic and younger voters are more apt to say they plan to support Sanders….She is also broadly viewed as having the better chance to win the general election: 71% of Democratic voters think Clinton has a better shot.

So Clinton’s struggles to reach young voters continue, which could matter for the general, but her electability argument may be sinking in. The polling average has Clinton up 14 points.

* VERY TIGHT DEM RACE IN IOWA: A new Fox News poll finds that Clinton leads Sanders by 48-42 among likely Iowa Dem caucus-goers, down from a 14 point lead last month. But note this:

Even as Sanders makes gains, there are signs Clinton could be better positioned to prevail in the kick-off to the Democratic nomination race: she leads by 53-39 percent among those who have attended a caucus before, and those who say they will “definitely” attend back her by a 50-40 percent margin.

It’s a reminder that it will all come down to organization, and to whether the voters Sanders is energizing will show up. The polling average has the race narrowing to within two points.

* VERY TIGHT GOP RACE IN IOWA: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Donald Trump has the support of 31 percent of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, to 29 percent for Ted Cruz and 13 percent for Marco Rubio. And so, around 60 percent support the non-establishment candidates.

The polling average shows Trump pulling ahead to a five point lead, though it’s still a tight race.

* CLINTON CAMP STRESSES HER ADVOCACY FOR KIDS: A new 60-second spot set to run in Iowa features footage of Clinton’s speeches, spanning literally decades, in which she advocated for children. It concludes on footage of Clinton this year saying:

“I’ve spent my life fighting for children, families and our country and I’m not stopping now.”

Highlighting Clinton’s advocacy for children and families has become her answer to Sanders’s relentless focus on inequality and Wall Street power, a way to stress that she, too, has spent her career fighting for progressive values.

* AND ANOTHER BENGHAZI CLAIM CRUMBLES: Republicans and some media figures like to insist that “600 requests” for security at the Benghazi diplomatic compound went ignored. But Glenn Kessler does the definitive look at this claim and finds that it is far, far more complicated than the critics say, and that it leaves a misleading impression.

Of course, that is not likely to stop critics from using the assertion. Indeed, as Kessler notes, Trump exaggerates it even further by claiming that slain ambassador Chris Stevens directly wired Hillary Clinton hundreds of times asking for help, which is utter nonsense.