Few people in this country have a trickier job than Reince Priebus. The chairman of the Republican National Committee is the guy who was selected to ensure that the party maintains power and stability, to double-check every brick and seal every crack in the GOP firmament.
But now the party's base has gotten hold of a wrecking ball, and he finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to simultaneously keep the establishment from being destroyed while also praising how well his voters are operating that heavy machinery.
The question that looms over this primary season, dominated by Donald Trump — who is only a few short months away from having balloons drift down onto his fabulous hair on a stage in Cleveland — is how the party will survive. Trump is one of those parasitic wasps that burrows inside a beetle to lay its eggs, and Priebus is like, nice egg-laying, man. What will this Trump-led party look like? What will it stand for? How will the beetle-shell move its limbs?
So it is with pleasure that we can present Priebus with a bit of good news. When the pollsters Selzer & Co. recently surveyed Americans for Bloomberg, they sought opinions on a number of people and organizations. And the Republican Party was not the least popular! I mean, you may have guessed that, since obviously the party would still be more popular than Congress, which basically everyone hates.* But there is someone even less popular than the Republican Party and less popular than Congress. That person is Donald Trump.
That is absolutely remarkable. Trump's negative ratings are driven by the 53 percent of Americans who view him "very unfavorably" — the stronger of the two options for "unfavorable." For reference, only about a third of Americans hate Congress that much. But half of the country gives Trump the worst rating it possibly can.
Opinions of the GOP have stumbled, mind you. After the 2014 elections, opinions of the party were about half-and-half. It's slipped downward since then, likely powered by the anti-establishment sentiment within the Republican electorate itself and, we might assume, unhappiness from others about the party's front-runner. Ted Cruz's popularity has also dropped over the last year or so, a product of his candidacy, no doubt. Hillary Clinton's tanked and then recovered a little. Weirdly enough, Paul Ryan and the Democratic Party are both viewed relatively positively. Who knew?
The big question about Trump is whether he can win a general-election fight. If these numbers don't change, one would assume not — especially if you consider the Selzer question pitting him in a one-on-one contest against Clinton. In that matchup, Clinton wins by a staggering 18 points, the biggest gap between the two in any poll since last June. There's a lot of campaign to go, and we'd be wise not to assume that this reflects precisely what will happen.
But still. Poor Reince! A probable nominee that's somehow even less popular than Congress. On the one hand, a sign that he's got all his ducks in a row. On the other, a hint that once the general election is over, the party can at least start rebuilding the rubble unimpeded.
* Except not really! Seriously, 6 percent of the country has a "very favorable" opinion of Congress. And since 6 percent of the country is nearly 20 million people, that means some people who don't directly work for Congress must actually think it's doing a good job. Or are incorrigible liars, which is also possible.