Donald Trump Jr. tried to make a political point about refugees on Twitter on Sept. 19, but he got it all wrong. The Fix's Philip Bump explains how. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

 

THE MORNING PLUM:

Don Trump Jr. is getting the media treatment today, with multiple major news orgs publishing profiles pointing out that his now-internationally-infamous Skittles tweet is part of a larger pattern, in which Don Jr. has flirted extensively with white nationalism, in true chip-off-the-old-block fashion. In these stories, the Trump campaign continues to stand by its defense of the tweet — in which Don Jr. likened Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles — arguing essentially that he was speaking hard truths.

An interesting new poll published today by CNN may help explain why the Trump campaign is not repudiating the Skittles tweet, but rather embracing it — and, more broadly, doubling down on his hardline message on Muslim immigration in general.

In the Skittles tweet, Don Jr. posted an image that said: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Philip Bump had an extensive rundown of why this is so misleading and reprehensible, noting that there is an extensive vetting process in place and that the actual odds of getting killed by a refugee are not even remotely disproportionate, relative to the overall population. But there are political reasons for the Trump campaign to stand by it and his broader hardline message.

The new CNN poll finds that white working class voters are more likely to believe immigrants from Muslim countries increase the risk of terrorist attacks in the U.S. Those voters believe this by 63-32. By contrast, college educated white voters do not believe this, by 52-42.

Meanwhile, in defense of white working class voters, the poll also finds that they believe that Muslim immigrants are “basically good, honest people,” by 63-25. In other words, working class whites — who are key to Trump’s candidacy — might be perfectly comfortable with a more anodyne interpretation of Don Jr.’s tweet, i.e., one that holds that most Muslim immigrants are not a threat, but a few just might be. (This does not get into whether they would agree with Trump’s proposed solutions to this, but some polls have shown that working class whites support a temporary ban on Muslims).

Now, it’s true that the CNN poll, which was also conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation, also finds that 51 percent of Americans overall also believe Muslim immigration boosts the risks of terror attacks here. And that includes 50 percent of working class Latinos, too. It is an unfortunate possibility that majorities of Americans might not agree with those of us who find the Skittles tweet reprehensible, or might at least agree with a sugar-coated (as it were) interpretation of it. So the Trump campaign, perhaps with some justification, may see no serious political risk in standing by it.

But the Trump campaign’s posture goes well beyond just sticking by the Skittles imagery. As Maggie Haberman points out, Trump is hurtling into the debates with as great an emphasis as ever on his xenophobic nationalism. And this overall doubling-down may only further deepen the cultural schism that Trumpism is driving between non-college and college educated whites, who don’t see Muslim immigration as a threat (per CNN’s new poll above) and don’t support Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, either. Yet expanding his appeal among those voters is essential for him to win, and that would probably require him to persuade many of them that he’s not the xenophobic bigot who has been shouting at them from their TV screens for the last year.

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* DON TRUMP JR.’S ‘DEPLORABLE’ PATTERN: Amid controversy over the eldest Trump son comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles, Jason Horowitz takes a look at Don Jr.’s overall pattern of rhetoric and concludes:

If his sister Ivanka Trump has become known for her polish and message discipline, he has distinguished himself by wading frequently into the shadowy waters of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, incendiary language and conspiracy theories….The Trump campaign declined to make Donald Jr. available for comment, instead releasing a statement that echoed his derision of political correctness and applauded him for speaking “the truth.”

He’s politically incorrect, wink wink, nudge nudge. Get it?

* CLINTON PIVOTS TO MORE POSITIVE MESSAGE: The Post’s Philip Rucker reports that Clinton is set to give a big speech on the economy today, as part of a broader effort to better convey her agenda to the public:

Clinton’s objective is twofold: To lift her sagging approval ratings as well as build trust in her agenda and earn a mandate that could help her, should she be elected, govern in a divided Washington….Polling indicates that many of Clinton’s economic policies…have widespread support….But Clinton is a flawed messenger because of deep character doubts.

As I’ve noted, the Clinton campaign is acknowledging that allowing Trump to destroy himself through maximum media exposure isn’t enough; a more concerted affirmative case for her is also needed.

* CLINTON LEADING AMONG TOP EARNERS: A new Bloomberg/Purple Slice poll finds that Clinton is leading Trump by 46-42 among likely voters with annual household incomes over $100,000, a demographic that historically backs the Republican. But:

Higher-income voters do pick Trump over Clinton as the candidate they think would be best for their own investments, 45 percent to 36 percent. Among those who say Trump would be better for their holdings, 17 percent aren’t supporting him.

Before Trump seizes on this poll to say Clinton is the candidate for the rich, note that this probably reflects the fact that college educated voters, including whites, are backing her.

* EXPERTS APPALLED BY TRUMP’S ‘SELF-DEALING’: The New York Times has now picked up the Post’s story about the Trump Foundation’s use of other people’s money to settle fines related to his private businesses. Trump’s charity also donated to the Florida attorney general at around the time she was considering complaints about Trump University, and one expert tells the Times:

“I don’t recall ever seeing a pattern of self-dealing that encompasses so many different kinds of self-dealing.”

Well, Trump is the best at everything, so really, no surprise here, either.

* DEMS ADVISE ‘ROPE A DOPE’ DEBATE STRATEGY FOR CLINTON: Politico reports that Democratic Senators are giving lots of advice to Clinton as she preps for next Monday’s debate showdown:

The best strategy for Clinton, lawmakers advised, is to let Trump do most of the talking….clinton will have to parry when Trump comes directly at her, but a more restrained rope-a-dope strategy is preferable to an aggressive posture right out of the gate, Democratic senators said. Trump showed in the Republican debates that he’s best as a counter-puncher, leveling spontaneous one-liners at his attackers that left them reeling.

Clinton will really have to bait Trump into some truly crazy moments, since many in the press corps will be eager to say that he’s “defying expectations” by not being his usual unhinged self.

* AND THE TRUMPISM OF THE DAY, BLACKS-REALLY-LOVE-HIM EDITION: Trump is under fire for saying African American communities are in their worst shape “ever,” but the fuller comment is also worth noting:

“We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever….I say to the African American communities and I think it’s resonating, because you see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They’re going, like, high.”

Maybe Trump means high single digits? Either way, it’s pretty obvious African Americans aren’t the real target for this “outreach.”