(Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

THE MORNING PLUM:

Two big must-read pieces this morning confirm it once again: Donald Trump is doing all he can to take our democracy down with him as he spirals towards a loss. Fortunately, there is also new evidence on multiple fronts that Trump’s effort to undermine our democracy is likely to follow in the path of many of his other ill-fated ventures — which is to say, it is likely to fail miserably.

The first piece is in the New York Times. Reporters talked to dozens of Trump supporters across the country and found them fearful, angry, and on edge. Some firmly believe the only way Trump can lose is if the election is stolen — one says Hillary Clinton can only win “by rigging the election.” Others say a Clinton presidency will be illegitimate — one opines that if Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.” Still others don’t expect a smooth transfer of power — one worries that if Clinton wins, “a large amount of people” may “take matters into their own hands.”

Trump has told his supporters all these things — the election is rigged; Clinton is not a legitimate candidate; and even that “Second Amendment people” might have recourse, if she wins. Unfortunately, yesterday’s Suffolk poll showed that many Trump supporters believe much of his conspiracy-mongering. But that poll also showed majorities overall reject it. Indeed, it also found that large majorities expect a peaceful transfer of power, suggesting some confidence in a core aspect of our democracy endures.

The second big piece is Bloomberg Businessweek’s deep dive into Trump’s data operation. The key revelation is that Trump and his advisers are running an operation to depress the vote among core Dem constituencies: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. The campaign includes ads targeting blacks with Clinton’s now-ancient “super-predator” remark and an effort to highlight Bill Clinton’s female accusers, to turn off younger female voters. As one senior Trump official puts it: “We have three major voter suppression operations under way.”

All of this is in keeping with what we already know about Trump’s endgame strategy. As his own advisers have confirmed, going scorched earth is all about depressing Clinton voters and getting them to stay home. Trump’s calls for his supporters to monitor the polls is likely about depressing Dem turnout with the prospect of voter intimidation.

Yet all this is also likely to fail. Early voting is already outpacing 2012 levels in ways that are putting Clinton on track to victory. There’s been a surge in absentee ballot requests in North Carolina (a must-win for Trump) and Georgia — among women. A new Harvard Institute of Politics poll finds that the percentages of voters aged 18 to 29 who are likely to vote this year is at parity with 2012. It’s looking increasingly as if Americans will repudiate — and already are repudiating — Trump’s various efforts to undermine confidence in the process…by voting.

If all of that proves right, there still remains one way in which Trump’s current games could succeed. The Bloomberg piece also reports that Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is eying ways to keep Trumpism’s influence alive after the election:

“Trump is a builder,” says Bannon, in a rare interview. “And what he’s built is the underlying apparatus for a political movement that’s going to propel us to victory on Nov. 8 and dominate Republican politics after that.”

The goal is to build a big media/political vehicle to keep Trumpism’s pathologies alive as a disruptive force inside the Republican Party. Which brings us back to the angry, frightened Trump supporters discussed above who can’t imagine a legitimate outcome that doesn’t involve Trump winning: people like them will likely be the target audience for such an effort. They may be susceptible to the message that Trump only lost because of spineless GOP leaders who betrayed him when the going got rough; because of rampant voter fraud; and because too much immigration continues to swell the ranks of Latinos voting Democratic. All that may produce disruptions in our politics that outlast Election Day.

But as for Trump’s effort to undermine our democracy in the short term — hopefully we can soon toss that on top of the big scrap heap of failed Trump ventures dating
back decades
.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump believes there's a global conspiracy to stop him from becoming president – but it's not the first time he's pushed unfounded theories. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

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* EARLY VOTING LOOKS GOOD FOR CLINTON: The Associated Press calculates that more than 12.5 million people have already voted, vastly outpacing 2012. In North Carolina, Democrats lead Republicans in ballots cast. In Florida, Dems have pulled even with Republicans in Florida faster than in 2012 or 2008. In Arizona, Dems are even with Republicans, even though Dems trailed by seven points in 2012.

As an official with a GOP firm puts it: “If current early vote trends hold, it’s a real possibility that Clinton can sweep a majority of swing states, including Florida.” Trump is ahead in Ohio and Iowa, but winning those would not be enough.

* CLINTON LEADS IN PENNSYLVANIA, POLL SHOWS: A new Upshot/Siena poll finds Clinton leading among likely voters in Pennsylvania by 46-39. Note this:

Over all, he leads among white voters without a college degree by a 17-point margin, 51 percent to 34 percent….But these gains would not be sufficient for Mr. Trump to win the state, even if he matched [Mitt] Romney’s standing among other voters — something he is not pulling off. Mr. Trump has the support of just 76 percent of Republican voters and trails among white voters with a college degree by nine points, 47 percent to 38 percent. He has nearly no support among black and other nonwhite voters.

There may not be enough of these blue collar white voters to get him there — even in Pennsylvania. But it’s now pretty obvious why Trump keeps saying there will be voter fraud in “certain areas” in the state — wink wink.

* CLINTON LEADS IN FLORIDA, POLL SHOWS: A new poll from the University of North Florida finds Clinton leading among likely voters in the state by 43-39 in the four-way match-up. From the polling director:

“Democrats are outperforming their historical norms in absentee and early voting. If this trend continues through Election Day, Clinton could expand this margin and easily win Florida.”

The polling averages currently put Clinton up by 3.5 points in the state. However, the new UNF poll puts Marco Rubio ahead of challenger Patrick Murphy by six points.

* CLINTON HOLDS NATIONAL LEAD: A new Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll finds Clinton leading among likely voters nationally by 48-42. And:

57 percent of registered voters are following the election “very closely” and 85 percent say they’re absolutely certain to vote or have already cast ballots. Both measures are similar to four years ago, and nearly identical percentages of Clinton and Trump supporters are reporting high attention to the race.

So it’s looking like turnout might not be depressed after all, despite Trump’s best efforts.

* NEW CLINTON VIDEO WARNS TRUMP CAN STILL WIN: The Clinton campaign has released a new video featuring campaign manager Robby Mook warning that Trump could still win and prepping supporters for a close finish. “We’ve seen polls tighten since the third debate,” Mook says, “and we expect things to get even closer before Election Day.” The video urges people to register to vote now, plan how to vote on Election Day, or to vote early if possible.

It’s unclear how much the race has tightened, but the Clinton camp is fully in GOTV mode now.

* REPUBLICANS ARE COMING HOME TO TRUMP: Is the race tightening? Nate Silver calculates that it might be tightening a bit, and also makes this interesting point:

Trump’s gains are partly the result of Republicans returning home to his campaign. One piece of evidence comes from Gallup’s tracking of candidate favorables: Trump’s favorable rating among Republicans has improved from 64 percent to 71 percent over the past week. But his favorability numbers with the broader electorate are up only slightly, from 31 percent to 34 percent. That suggests that Trump’s gains have come principally among Republicans.

This might be because the worst stories about Trump — the sex tape and charges of unwanted advances — have faded from the headlines. But even so, Trump’s favorables remain relatively low even among Republicans.

* CLINTON HOLDS BIG EDGE IN ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Sabato’s Crystal Ball has shifted its ratings once again, and the end result is this: Clinton has 272 electoral college votes if you only count the states she is likely to win, i.e, only states rated “Likely Democratic.” That means she can win the presidency without any states that are classified as “Lean Democratic” or “Toss Up.”

That map looks like this: as long as Clinton holds Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and New Hampshire (all rated “Likely Dem” now), and holds Wisconsin (also “Likely Dem”), she wins, even if Trump takes Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and Nevada.