Donald Trump has had a very tough three weeks on the campaign trail, from a bad first debate to the “Access Hollywood” video to the recent flood of allegations that he groped and made unwanted sexual advances toward several women.
And yet Trump trails Hillary Clinton by just four points in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll — a number that is pretty par for the course for the 2016 election.
But the Post-ABC poll also makes this clear about what Trump is up to these days: He's doing almost everything wrong, and he's doing nothing to grow his support and actually put himself in a position to win.
- 57 percent of likely voters say his response to the “Access Hollywood” video of him making lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women was insincere. Just 40 percent say it was sincere.
- 52 percent say his comments on tape aren't the brand of “locker room talk” that he and his supporters have routinely claimed. Just 40 percent say they are.
- Related to that, 68 percent say they believe Trump has made unwanted sexual advances toward women, while just 14 percent say he has not. So, clearly, people think his actual behavior at least somewhat matched the words he claims were bluster.
- 57 percent say it's inappropriate for Trump to say that Hillary Clinton would be in jail if he were president for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. Just 41 percent say it's appropriate.
- 62 percent say Clinton's criticisms of the women who accused her husband of sexual misdeeds is not a legitimate election issue, despite Trump's increasing focus on it. Just 35 percent say it is a legitimate thing for Trump to focus on.
- Similarly, setting aside his wife's role in it, 67 percent say Bill Clinton's treatment of women isn't a legitimate issue in the 2016 election. Just 31 percent say it is.
Trump has spent the better part of the past week arguing that his comments on tape were just “locker room talk,” attempting to cast doubt on the accusations made against him by an increasing number of women and pressing the case that the Clintons' misdeeds are worse than the ones he's alleged to have committed.
The problem is that a majority of voters are buying none of it.
So why hasn't he lost much ground — at least in this poll (other polls last week showed him losing much more and down double digits)? Part of it is rank partisanship. About 4 in 10 likely voters appear willing to give him a pass on most of the things described above.
Those who appear unconcerned are largely GOP-leaning voters already supporting Trump. And that's probably why he remains at 43 percent in a four-way matchup with Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein.
But that brings us back to the problem that has plagued Trump since the GOP primary: his inability to grow his support among the general electorate. Trump is doing basically nothing in response to his problems these past few weeks that is being met with broad support.
He has long run, and continues to run, a campaign that is very much focused on the Republican Party base, and that base doesn't seem to have deserted him at this point. But that base alone is also insufficient to win an election in the United States.
Trump remains in this race almost completely despite himself and with an assist from Clinton's own popularity problems. Those are problems, we would note, that are largely due to things she did before this campaign — in contrast to Trump. He'll probably see the head-to-head number from this poll showing him down only four points and think he's doing just fine and could still win.
If so, he will be missing the point entirely.