Who supports the Donald?

No matter what happens, I promise not to write about Donald Trump tomorrow. But for today, I thought Ruth Marcus provided a small service in helping us understand the Trump phenomenon in her column today by asking the question: Who are the Trump supporters?

For answers, unsurprisingly, she turned to the just-published Washington Post poll, the one that showed Trump with a large lead over the other 49 Republican presidential aspirants (although, it also showed a sharp drop in support for Trump on the final day of the survey, the day after Trump’s insult to John McCain’s war record was widely reported). Marcus posed an obvious question: What kinds of Republicans said Trump was their first choice for the nomination?

The answer was simple: They are younger, poorer and less-educated than the overall poll sample. (They are not, by the way, overwhelmingly male, which caused Marcus to tut-tut thus: “Ladies, I expected better.”)

In “First Read,” its every-morning-note-for-political-junkies, the NBC news team turned for Trump-bump understanding to the story of the 2011-12 Republican primary race. Thus:

“In the July 2011 NBC/WSJ poll, the leaders were Romney and Michele Bachmann. In August, it was Rick Perry and Romney. In October, it was Herman Cain and Romney. A month later, it was Romney and Cain again. And in Dec. 2011, it was Newt Gingrich and Romney. So what does that tell us? For starters, the GOP race was incredibly volatile, always featuring Romney vs. an anti-Romney alternative flavor the month. But maybe more importantly, it was about an anti-Romney constituency in search of a candidate. These were voters who weren’t wild about Romney, who weren’t wild about the Republican establishment as a whole, but who wanted someone else. And eventually, they settled on Rick Santorum (the last anti-Romney standing). So if that lesson from 2011-2012 taught us anything, it’s that Trump’s rise isn’t about Donald Trump; folks, he isn’t going to be the GOP’s nominee. Rather, it’s about where his supporters/voters go. Trump’s constituency is very real and perhaps durable — even if they end up candidate shopping again.”

So, for the sake of discussion, let’s say Jeb Bush is the Mitt Romney of 2016. He’s the establishment candidate (although it must be noted that he doesn’t yet enjoy the kind of overwhelming support of the party establishment that Romney did and it’s possible to imagine that someone else will play the role of establishment choice). He’s dull and avoids radical-sounding statements.

To the ears of the Trump crowd, he’s a ditherer who talks without saying anything and doesn’t promise the kind of deep, angry change that is needed. They want someone who sounds different, who violates the norms of political correctness, who seems to be speaking from the gut, who is proposing fundamental change even if the details sound crazy to the public policy mavens. To the writers of “First Read,” the constituency that feels this way is a “very real and perhaps durable” element of the Republican electorate. If/when Trump blows, they will get on the bandwagon of a different anti-establishment candidate.

One last thing

One last thing from back in the Marcus column and the Post poll and which explains one of the ways Trump could turn into the ultimate Republican nightmare for 2016: In a trial heat match-up between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, Clinton wins by 50 to 44 among registered voters.

But in a three-way, Clinton-Bush-Trump race, Trump gets 20 percent, most of them voters who would prefer Bush over Clinton if those were their only choices, and thus Clinton’s beats Bush by 46 to 30. That’s a 10-point increase in Clinton’s lead by virtue of having Trump in race.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/22/2015 - 11:38 am.

    Trump is smart enough to know that a 3 way race only guarantees a Dem win and gets him the same respected position (hah!) that Nader now has. Won’t happen except in the fevered imagination of writers in search of a story, any story. (Fer gods sake, gimmee a storeee.)

    Now a Bush/Trump ticket?? Never will happen–he’d be as bad a Veep as Spiro and his ego wouldn’t let him.

    The interesting question–a Trump/Rubio ticket?

    Now that really would be a blast. And a never-ending story.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/22/2015 - 01:12 pm.

    The Trump fuse has been lit

    The fuse leads to the firecracker. I suspect Trump has a short fuse. The GOP leaderless circus continues.

  3. Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/22/2015 - 05:08 pm.

    Shorter story …

    … idiots support Trump.

    The man is an embarrassment, as are his supporters.

    Trump is a birther. Strike one.
    Trump is a racist. Strike two.
    Trump is a chickenhawk. Strike three.


    He deserves to be tossed in the trash bin of history, and the sooner the better.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/23/2015 - 09:56 am.

    Trump for president…

    I have to admit I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump for any office at any level – for all the negative reasons other commenters have already mentioned, plus a list of others, as well.

    That said, much like the pollster suggests, his current popularity is an indication of just how many people – badly educated or not, male or not, racist/sexist or not – in the electorate are beyond just disaffected, but are genuinely angry about what’s happened to their economic and social positions. Those positions have, according to almost every published measure, significantly eroded over the past generation or so, and the people caught up in that deterioration, since they’re working just as hard as they ever did, or their job was shipped elsewhere by a wealthy CEO, are looking for someone to blame, fairly or not.

    Plenty of those people hold “government,” as a sort of generic entity, responsible for their deteriorating position in society, even if that view is largely irrational. While it might make the irony meter go crazy, Trump speaks to them in much the same way various demagogues spoke to the Okies during the Great Depression. When Grandpa Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath” wants to know “Who do we shoot?” he’s evoking the same sort of anger and frustration we see in Trump supporters. If you want a more modern example, think Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” It’s the same sort of frustration, the same sort of outrage, and, frankly, the same sort of counterproductive choice of public figures to provide “leadership,” or at least more articulate expression, of that frustration and outrage. In Kansas, the citizens now have to deal with Sam Brownback, and the consequences of seeing a portion of their frustration turned into actual policy. It ain’t pretty.

    I’d be happy to see “…the Republicans’ worst nightmare” come to pass, but I think Trump will eventually go down in flames, as even his supporters begin to realize that he not only is not *of* them, but is also mostly a self-serving ego in search of other ways to feed his own self-importance.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/23/2015 - 10:00 am.


    Like Mitt Romney, Donald Trump is a wealthy man. But unlike Mitt, The Donald became wealthy, not by shuffling paper, but by building things, that are real and enduring. Things, the building of which created great jobs. Or at least that’s the perception. And I think that’s what working people sense about him, and like about him.

    Some people feel what’s wrong with this country are too many undocumented aliens. I think what’s wrong with the country are the Mitt Romney’s, the folks who make money by demanding and receiving an ever bigger piece of an ever shrinking pie. Folks who make vast amounts of money in ways that we can’t comprehend or explain. These are sentiments that we don’t hear a lot about in the media, which pretty much assumes that all rich folk are fungible. This difference between builders and paper shufflers is intuitively grasped by working people who understand that Trump’s kind of wealth did trickle down to them where Mitt Romney’s kind of wealth mostly trickled into bank accounts located off shore. I think this explains why Trump’s message is succeeding with exactly the same people with whom Mitt’s message of wealth and success based on financial manipulation, failed. Something also we might have to consider is that we haven’t seen Trump’s message presented so effectively in our national politics before. It’s consequences are both unknown and unintended. It may have a durability that is without precedent. One specific effect we have already seen, notice how quickly the McCain gaffe faded away?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/23/2015 - 10:43 am.

      Like Mitt Romney

      Donald Trump inherited his money; in his case from his immigrant grandfather (Friederich Drumpf) and his father.
      He’s built up a paper real estate empire, but what he’s released so far doesn’t give a good picture of what he owns ‘free and clear’, as opposed to a lot of mortgaged property.
      And he’s appealing to people who want the impossible: more services and lower taxes…. people who feel that ‘someone’ is to blame for their problems, but haven’t bothered to do the homework to figure out who it is.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/23/2015 - 11:48 am.

    Donald Trump inherited his money; in his case from his immigrant grandfather (Friederich Drumpf) and his father.

    Trump inherited money and he made a lot of money. There are all sorts of questions that can be raised about his business career. But Republicans who venerate wealth, aren’t in a position to raise those issues. The fact is, Trump in all likelihood, can present millions of photos and videos with himself in a hard hat presiding over construction sites, shaking hands with working people, in the United States and all over the world. And that’s part of the appeal Trump creates for himself. How many times have we heard The Donald talk about the people in all walks of life he talks to? Again, something Mitt Romney locked away in the remote fastnesses of his executive office suite, could never do.

    Let me be clear here. I am a liberal Democrat. There is no conceivable set of circumstances which would cause me to vote for Donald Trump. But he is also a figure of substance, much more so than a long ago governor of Florida whose only qualification for office is that he is the brother of the worst president in history. Trump connects with people, and he does it ways that are significant, and which also fall well within the collective blind spots of huge swaths of our media culture. We ignore him and his message at our peril.

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