THE MORNING PLUM:

A barrage of new state and national polls suggesting that Donald Trump may be cratering give rise to a question: Does Trump’s unique awfulness mean that Hillary Clinton can make meaningful inroads among Republican voters?

Clinton and campaign chairman John Podesta already have been directly involved in reaching out to potential Republican recruits, as has Leslie Dach, a former Wal-Mart executive who held positions in the last two Democratic administrations and also is involved in contacting business leaders.
The effort is still in its early stages and not yet fully structured, but now is drawing more resources from Clinton’s staff, according to a campaign official who would only discuss the matter on condition of anonymity. The communications team has assigned staff to monitor news accounts of Republicans who say they cannot support Trump or may support Clinton. Some Republicans who’ve made the switch say they’ve been consulted for their views on how to make the outreach effective….
The idea, according to the campaign official, is to create a “permission structure” for rank-and-file voters by showing them locally and nationally respected Republicans who say crossing over for at least at the top of the ticket is the right move for the country.

This effort is “real,” according to the judgment of GOP strategist Rick Wilson, who says he thinks GOP voters really could support Clinton. Those voters fall into three groups:

“The first group are foreign-policy Republicans who believe Trump may be an existential threat to our country,” he said. “The second group are Republicans who are worried he is going to be an economic disaster. And the third group are what I call the ‘decency Republicans’ who are appalled by his treatment of the Khan family, of the disabled reporter, and of his sort of sadistic and juvenile behavior towards people.”

This dovetails very much with the chatter in Democratic circles right now, which holds that Trump’s unique combination of qualities — his ongoing displays of sadism and abusiveness, his obvious temperamental and emotional unfitness for the presidency, his preening ignorance, his lack of curiosity about the world — create a real opportunity to make serious inroads among GOP-leaning constituencies, such as suburban women, college educated whites, and GOP-leaning independents.

It’s hard to know how successful that effort will prove. But the current trends suggest that it could get a big assist in coming days, as Republican incumbents and candidates distance themselves from Trump. The New York Times reports:

There are now active discussions among high-ranking Republican officials about how much longer the party can wait before recasting their focus away from Mr. Trump and toward down-ballot candidates. One adviser to Mr. Priebus indicated that, much as the party did when Bob Dole’s presidential campaign was flagging in 1996, officials may have to turn their attention to congressional and governors’ races as early as next month.

The real point here is that much of this will be made a lot more likely if Trump’s poll numbers continue to crater. As GOP strategist Liam Donovan tweeted, with tongue firmly in cheek: “Given the direction of state and national polling, I’m thinking we might see a sudden outbreak in political courage.”

In other words, if Trump continues sliding — and, more importantly, if his unfavorable ratings keep climbing among core voter groups that Republicans can’t afford to continue alienating — more of them will find the “courage” to disassociate themselves from him. And the polling this week suggests that is happening. This week’s CNN poll finds Trump’s unfavorable numbers off the charts with the very groups that Dems hope Trump’s singular wretchedness will allow them to make inroads among: He’s seen unfavorably by 67 percent of women; 73 percent of young voters; 68 percent of white college graduates; and 71 percent of moderates. Those numbers are simply awful.

Meanwhile, this week’s CBS poll found that 61 percent of voters say Trump is not prepared for presidency, and 63 percent say he lacks the right temperament for it. Meanwhile, equally large majorities say Clinton does possess those qualities. Trump’s fundamental unfitness for the job is central to any Dem hopes of making real inroads among GOP-leaning constituencies.

Again, we don’t know how successful this outreach will be. But it is crucial that these efforts are made. Because now that we have seen the true dimensions of Trumpism — both at Trump’s rage-and-hate convention and in his ongoing attacks on the Khan family, among other things — what is really called for is not simply defeating Trumpism, but defeating it decisively, or even more ideally, crushing it, to whatever degree crushing victories remain possible amid today’s polarization and negative partisanship.

*********************************************************************************

* TRUMP, AYOTTE TRAIL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: A new WBUR poll finds that Hillary Clinton is beating Trump by 15 points among likely voters in New Hampshire, 47-32, and Dem Governor Maggie Hassan leads Senator Kelly Ayotte by ten points, 50-40.

Other polls have shown the Senate race is a dead heat. But still, this could be an early indication that Trump may end up dragging down vulnerable GOP Senators.

* TRUMP TRAILS IN MICHIGAN: A new Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll finds Clinton up nine points among likely voters in Michigan, 41-32. Note that the pollster says Clinton has a “shocking” lead in the GOP regions of the western and southwestern parts of the state.

But Trump told us he is going to put Michigan in play, because he’s doing so awesomely among working class whites, and also, he knows a lot about cars!

* TRUMP TRAILS IN PENNSYLVANIA: A new Franklin and Marshall College poll finds Clinton up 11 points among likely voters in Pennsylvania, 49-38. Remember, the Trump campaign itself sees Pennsylvania — along with Florida and Ohio — as absolute must-win states.

Taken all together, this new state polling suggests that Trump’s plan to put secret states in play isn’t going too well right now.

* TRUMP UNDERPERFORMING WITH…VETERANS? Bloomberg reports that Trump’s ongoing battle with the Khan family may be hurting him with veterans, and he is already underperforming relative to previous GOP nominees:

Trump is up 14 points over Clinton with veterans, 53 percent to 39 percent, according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday. McCain was 22 points ahead at this juncture in the 2008 race with registered voters who had served in the U.S. military; Romney was up 24 points in May 2012, Gallup polling showed.

But the veterans love Trump, because he’s strong and tough, believe me.

* OBAMA’S APPROVAL RISES: A new CNN poll puts Obama’s approval at 54 percent, a four year high. Meanwhile, the new Fox News poll finds it at 52 percent. But those “wrong track” numbers guarantee a Trump victory, haven’t you heard?

* AND TRUMP LIES ABOUT CASH TO IRAN: Trump now claims Clinton “started talks to give $400 million in cash to Iran.” Glenn Kessler has a good explainer on what this new right wing obsession is all about: The money was part of a settlement of claims in a dispute over payments for U.S. military equipment that dates back to the late 1970s, and U.S. officials note that the timing overlap with the recent hostage release is coincidental.

As for Clinton’s involvement, Kessler notes: “Iran’s claim for the $400 million was made long before Clinton took office — and was resolved after she left.” Details, details…