Opinion writer

THE MORNING PLUM:

Donald Trump actually said this on the campaign trail late yesterday:

“What a difference this is. Just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election, and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for?”

Whether or not Trump was joking, his supporters greeted that remark with lusty cheers. But here’s the thing: Even as Trump supporters continue to lap up his various suggestions that the only legitimate outcome of the election would be a Trump victory, the broader American public is completely rejecting the story he’s telling.

Indeed, there’s new evidence this morning that Trump’s ongoing effort to undermine faith in our democracy has been accompanied by a strengthening of confidence in it. And there’s also new evidence that majorities see Trump as fundamentally disrespectful of our democratic institutions.

The new Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Trump by four points nationally. (There may be a tightening, but that would not be surprising; it probably represents Republicans who had been alienated by the awful headlines about his sex tape and allegations of unwanted advances coming back to him).

But here’s a potentially more significant finding. As Scott Clement and Emily Guskin note, the new Post/ABC poll also finds that worries about voter fraud have declined among American voters by 10 percentage points, even as confidence that the votes will be counted accurately has risen by 12 points:

Fewer than four in 10 voters now say voter fraud occurs very or somewhat often (37 percent), down from 47 percent in early September….In a separate question, the share of voters saying they do not have confidence votes will be counted accurately dipped from 33 to 28 percent, while the percentage saying they are “very confident” rose from 31 to 43 percent.

Of course, a large majority of Trump voters — seven in 10 — say voter fraud occurs at least some of the time, and 34 percent say it occurs very often. And half of them say they are not too confident or not at all confident that votes will be counted accurately across the country. But confidence among Democrats is rising along with that of the broader public: The share of Dems who are very confident in the vote counting is up to 70 percent, while only a tiny fraction of them now thinks voter fraud happens at least some of the time.

Meanwhile, a new Pew poll finds that 56 percent of Americans say Trump has little or no respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and traditions. By contrast, 62 percent say Clinton has a great deal or a fair amount of respect for them. It’s been widely documented that large majorities think Trump’s character, temperament, and views render him unfit for the presidency. It seems reasonable to speculate that perceptions of his lack of respect for our democracy — not to mention public awareness of his ongoing efforts to undermine it — might be playing some kind of role in supporting broader impressions of his fundamental unfitness for the job.

Trump, of course, is busily feeding those perceptions daily, with his ongoing lies about how our elections are rigged and how there is rampant voter fraud, not to mention his calls for supporters to monitor the polls for cheating. And as I’ve noted, there are ample grounds to worry that this could produce disruptions after the election. Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is actively building a media/political apparatus to keep Trumpism alive as a political force that will exert pressure on the GOP even after Trump’s campaign is over. It seems obvious that one aspect of this effort will be aimed at voters who believe the election was stolen from them.

Who knows what sort of damage that will do later. But for now, it’s good to see that the broader public is responding to Trump’s demagoguery with increased confidence in the process. And it’s also failing in another way. Which brings us to our next item.

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* EARLY VOTING LOOKS GOOD FOR DEMS: The latest tally from NBC’s First Read crew:


As First Read concludes: “Democrats are ahead in eight states, Republicans are ahead in three, and they’re essentially tied in Florida.”

Remember, Trump’s claims that the election is “rigged,” and his calls for monitoring of the polls to prevent cheating, are also aimed at depressing Dem turnout. It isn’t working.

* GOP DONORS SCRAMBLE TO SALVAGE CONGRESS: The New York Times crunches the latest fundraising numbers filed with the Federal Election Commission and finds:

Disclosures…revealed tens of millions of dollars in late donations and transfers to Republican “super PACs” focused on down-ballot races, suggesting a significant last-ditch effort to protect Senate and House candidates against Mrs. Clinton’s surge. Relatively little new money has come into outside groups supporting Mr. Trump….Thursday’s filings are a clear sign that the Republican establishment has all but abandoned Mr. Trump.

It all amounts to a concession that Clinton appears on her way to victory.

* TRUMP ISN’T BAILING OUT HIS OWN CAMPAIGN: The Post reports that Clinton massively outraised Trump in the first 19 days of October, giving her a big financial advantage in the homestretch. And:

There was scant evidence that the real estate billionaire will end up giving the $100 million he has repeatedly claimed he is donating to his bid. Trump gave his campaign about $31,000 in ­in-kind contributions in the first 19 days of the month — down from the $2 million a month in cash he had been donating. Trump’s total personal contributions to his campaign currently total a little more than $56 million.

Huh. Why isn’t Trump coming through for himself? Maybe he knows it’s a bad investment.

* DEM ADS INCREASINGLY TIE REPUBLICANS TO TRUMP: CBS News looks at the broad TV ad spending patterns and finds a dramatic increase in spending on ads that are tying Trump to down-ballot Republicans. Notably, Democrats tell CBS that the spending boost coincides with two things: The emergence of Trump’s lewd sex tapes; and the craven, last-minute rush by Republicans to distance themselves from him because of it.

The Dem calculation here is that voters won’t reward Republicans from disavowing Trump now, when it’s obvious he’s losing and they stuck with him through months of racism and hate.

* CLINTON EDGES AHEAD IN NORTH CAROLINA: The Cook Political Report shifts its race ratings, moving North Carolina from a “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic”:

Clinton has taken a lead in North Carolina, a state where she enjoys a large organizational advantage. The white share of the state’s voter rolls has fallen from 71.1 percent to 69.7 percent in the last four years. The most recent polling, a New York Times/Siena poll and a Quinnipiac poll showed her up 7 points and 4 points respectively.

Trump almost certainly cannot win if he loses in North Carolina.

* TRUMP’S BRUTALLY DIFFICULT MAP: CNN reports that both Trump and Clinton are focusing time and resources on Florida and North Carolina in the final stretch. But here’s the rub: Trump must win both, and Clinton is leading in both — and she can win without either.

And that’s not all: Even if Trump wins Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, he still only gets to 253 Electoral Votes — meaning if he does manage to hold off her offensive in the first two while holding the third, he still needs to find 17 more in the Electoral College.

* OBAMACARE CAN BE FIXED: Paul Krugman points out that the law’s successes (massive coverage expansion; controlled costs) continue to outweigh the problems (higher premiums), and that the latter could be fixed with increased subsidies and other tweaks. But:

The trouble is that Congress would have to vote to spend that money. So unless Democrats manage to take the House (unlikely) or Republicans are willing to cooperate in the public interest (even more unlikely), the easy fix that’s clearly in sight will have to wait for a while.

This seems like the rub: Dems will push to spend some more money to build on Obamacare’s successful coverage expansion and fix problems that have arisen; Republicans will oppose it.

* AND POLLS DON’T CAPTURE TRUMP’S SECRET SUPPORT, SAY REPUBLICANS: Politico surveys GOP strategists, operatives, and activists in 11 battleground states, and learns:

More than seven-in-10 GOP insiders, 71 percent, say the polls understate Trump’s support because voters don’t want to admit to pollsters that they are backing the controversial Republican nominee.

But professional pollsters from both parties say they don’t see any evidence for any such effect. (And big GOP donors don’t appear to, either.) We’ll find out who’s right soon enough.