There's lots of good news for Donald Trump in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll. He's moved into a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton, thanks, mainly, to a relatively quick rallying around him by Republicans.
Eighty-five percent of Republicans are now for Trump while Clinton takes just 8 percent of GOPers. Those numbers are similar to Clinton's showing among Democrats, where she wins 85 percent to Trump's 11 percent. (For more explanation on why those numbers may well change once the Democratic primary officially ends, read this.)
Amid all of those positive numbers is one that stands out for its oddity — at least to me. It's this:
Four out of 10 self-identified Republican voters don't believe that Trump's views reflect the "core values" of the GOP. That's remarkable given that (a) he is the presumptive presidential nominee and has been for weeks and (b) 85 percent of these same self-identified Republicans say they will vote for Trump over Clinton in the general election.
What explains that chasm between a willingness to support Trump and lingering doubts about whether he is, you know, actually a Republican? A few theories:
1. Representing the "core values" of the Republican party isn't all that important to the average rank-and-file voter in this election. Trump cruised — and, yes, "cruised" is the right word — through the crowded Republican primary fight, thanks in part (maybe the biggest part) to his rejection of long-held party conventions. Trump's candidacy functioned as a middle finger to the Republican establishment — and he won. Easily.
Given that, it's not out of the question to conclude that a decent chunk of Republican voters are looking for something very different from their party than they have been getting PT (pre-Trump). The assumption is that the four in 10 Republicans who say they don't believe Trump represents core GOP values won't be voting for him in the fall. But it's also possible that a chunk of that 41 percent LIKE the fact that Trump isn't walking in lock-step with core GOP values.
If so, the idea of Trump remaking the Republican party — or at least a portion of it — in his own image isn't as far-fetched as some people seem to believe.
2. The distaste for the prospect of a(nother) Clinton presidency is so high that the alternative — any alternative — is preferable.
There's some evidence that this is what's happening. In the same Post-ABC poll, 46 percent of Republicans voting for Trump said their vote was in support of him while 49 percent said it was in opposition to Clinton. Overall, 44 percent of Trump voters said it was a vote in support of the real estate mogul while 53 percent said they were for him more out of opposition to her.
In Trump and Clinton, you have two near-certain presidential nominees who are not only broadly disliked by the country as a whole but close-to-hated by the opposite side's base. Clinton's best friend when it comes to rallying so-so Democrats behind her candidacy is the prospect of a Trump presidency. The same appears to hold true for Trump. Only the slimmest majority of Republicans actually think he believes in the core principles of the GOP, but more than eight out of 10 are for him because they don't want her to be president.
Elections in this country are, usually, binary choices. If you don't want Choice A, you have to take Choice B. It appears as though lots of Republicans have already made peace with that fact — even if they aren't entirely sure that Choice B actually believes what he is saying.
The delta between Republicans supporting Trump and those who say they believe he is actually a Republican is one of the dozens of anomalous factoids about the Trump presidential candidacy — and yet more evidence that win or lose, political scientists will be studying Trump (and Trumpism) for decades to come.