The thing about Donald Trump is that he's so well-defined as a character (meant in any number of senses) that it's hard not to rely on dumb cliched jokes about him. For example: Donald Trump's lead in a just-released Monmouth University poll has him towering over the competition as if you moved one of his skyscrapers to a corn field in Kansas. Or, better, in the empty flats of Texas, since the candidate over whom he looms is Ted Cruz.
Donald Trump 41 percent. Ted Cruz in second at 14. If every voter who told Monmouth that they backed Marco Rubio (10 percent) and Ben Carson (9) and Jeb Bush (3) and John Kasich (3) and Chris Christie (2) all switched their support to Cruz, Cruz and Trump would be tied. Once again, we see that the decline of Carson has been beneficial to Cruz, but in this case, not by much.
Monmouth also calls out the demographics behind Trump's lead: older, less-educated voters. More than half of Republican voters with only a high school education back Trump in the new survey, while 3 in 10 college graduates do the same.
That mirrors what we've seen elsewhere. Last week Gallup released favorability numbers showing that the group that viewed Trump most positively was Republican men with no college degree. They were 36 points more likely to look at the real estate titan positively. Among college-educated Republican women? Trump's favorability was completely flat.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released over the weekend found a similar split by gender and age. Young women view Trump negatively. Older men view him positively -- although this overlaps with partisanship, since it's all voters, not just Republicans.
There's obvious demographic overlap between the older, white candidate and his base of support, though Trump's got a degree from one of the most prestigious universities (as he would say). Our Dan Balz mapped the subtext to Trump's support from that group: the fade in the middle class.
If Cruz wants to take out Trump -- to surmount that 27-point lead -- he'll need to fall back on his strengths: Conservative voters. Cruz does much better with conservatives and tea party supporters than he does overall.
There's just one problem: Trump does better still. Even if the poll is an outlier, which seems very possible, Trump’s doing well where Cruz needs to do better.
Normally, Donald Trump would now tweet about how the much-respected Monmouth University poll has him in a soaring lead over his rivals. That's a bit tricky, since he just last week bashed Monmouth after it showed him slipping in Iowa. ("I've never even heard Monmouth," he said. "What the hell is Monmouth?") Rest assured, he'll still tweet the results.
As I said, we know this guy cold by now. But how the voters react to him can still surprise us.