It took us a while, but we no longer assume that bizarre things said or done by Donald Trump or his campaign will hurt him. It took longer than it should have, to be honest, but it was hard for people who have been paying attention to politics for a while to believe that a guy could call immigrants rapists or mock a war hero without negative repercussions for his candidacy. It took even longer before it became obvious that the plurality of Republicans who said they supported Trump and supported him whole-heartedly actually meant it and wouldn’t be overwhelmed by outrage from more moderate Republicans.
But now we know. Trump can say or do pretty much anything, and he won’t pay a political price. He can literally joke about murdering his supporters, and his supporters won’t go anywhere. And, it seems, he can tacitly endorse violence against protesters at his rallies, and hardly anyone even blinks.
On Friday night, Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago after it was infiltrated by protesters. Fights broke out on the floor of the venue and, later, in the streets outside. On Sunday, Trump went on political talk shows to defend the behavior of his supporters and his campaign. He even indicated that he was thinking about covering the legal fees of the man who elbowed a protester in the face without warning last week.
Monmouth University was polling Republicans in Florida as the events in Chicago unfolded, and so they added a question to their survey. “As you may know, Donald Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago Friday night where protesters and his supporters got into confrontations,” Monmouth asked. “Does what happened there and Trump’s response to it make you more likely or less likely to support Trump, or does it have no impact on your vote for the Republican nomination?”
The responses? Eighty-eight percent of those who replied said it either made no difference or made them support Trump more.
For every one person who found the events unappealing, two viewed Trump more favorably.
This is one state, asked to respond to a question that didn’t go into much detail about what had transpired. It’s possible that the 22 percent were already die-hard Trump backers and the 11 percent were Trump haters. Monmouth notes that the percentage of support for Trump increased each day of their polling but that it’s not clear whether it was related to what happened in Chicago.
What seems to be clear, though, is that what happened in Chicago didn’t shift the calculus in Florida very much. Asked who they’d support in a hypothetical three-way general election, 8 in 10 Florida Republicans said they’d back Trump over Clinton or a candidate to be named later.
Since Trump was supported by 44 percent of Republicans in the poll, that means that about a third of Florida Republicans oppose Trump in the primary but would vote for him in the general regardless — contrary, it seems, to the recent evolution of the Florida Republican on the ballot on Tuesday, Marco Rubio.
The events of the past few days and Trump’s open embrace of violence on the campaign trail have restored the ability of some in the political observer class to be amazed that Trump never seems to pay much of a political price, no matter what he does. Dartmouth’s Brendan Nyhan outlined that amazement in a series of tweets Sunday night.
But we’ve become inured against Trump moving the bar again and again. If this poll from Florida is any indicator, so have voters.