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Tilting at Windmills

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April 15, 2011

THE STORY IS THE GOP BASE, NOT TRUMP'S LEAD.... Last week, an NBC poll showed reality-show personality Donald Trump running second nationwide in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Earlier this week, a CNN poll showed Trump tied for the lead.

This morning, Public Policy Polling shows the strange man actually taking the lead.

Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

The same poll found 23% of Republican primary voters -- nearly a fourth -- will only consider birthers when picking a presidential candidate, while 38% will only consider candidates who reject the racist conspiracy theory (the rest weren't sure).

Yes, it's true that at this stage in the process, high name recognition plays a significant role, and Trump has been a well known national figure for many years. But that alone doesn't explain the results from three credible national polls. Indeed, they can't -- Trump was just as well known last month, and his support wasn't nearly this strong.

But while the PPP survey seems likely to touch off another round of discussion about Trump's viability as a national candidate, I still think that's missing the point. In fact, I don't really expect him to run for office at all.

The likely reason Trump's support is so high is his willingness to run around to media outlets, spewing conspiracy theories and bizarre ideas that resonate with easily-fooled extremists. And as the lunacy gets more intense, polls show more Republican voters gravitating to the guy.

The symptoms aren't as relevant as the disease. In this case, the GOP base includes a big chunk of very strange people who connect with a clownish television personality who's playing to their worst instincts.

And that's what's important here. What the polls tell us about Trump's support is secondary to what the polls tell us about the hysterical wing of the Republican Party and their prominence in the contemporary GOP.

A reality-show personality has been whining incessantly about the president's birth certificate, and a sizeable contingent of the GOP base has decided that's enough to make him an attractive presidential candidate. The question isn't whether Trump can win; the question is what we're learning about the strain of madness running through today's Republican Party.

Steve Benen 1:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Madness and racism, Steve -- madness and racism.

Posted by: stinger on April 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Former MN Governor Jesse Ventura has got some good 9-11 conspiracy theories to add, too.

Posted by: Ray Waldren on April 15, 2011 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

He's on TV, so he gets fame and fame confers credibility, regardless of whether it is deserved.

Moreover, his shows depict him as a father figure, the boss whom everyone is scurrying to please, the guy who sets the challenge and instantly delivers verdicts and decisions, and most watchers make the assumptions that the puzzle-setter knows the answers and is competent at the challenges he sets, and that quick decisions rendered aggressively and with confidence must mean that he knows what he is talking about. Many people react positively to that.

Posted by: N.Wells on April 15, 2011 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Trump could nominate Andy Kaufman as his running mate. So what if he's, um you know, dead? If sanity isn't a requirement, why should breathing be one?

Posted by: quaker in a basement on April 15, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

And remember, Trump won't make his decision public until the LAST EPISODE OF HIS REALITY SHOW!

I hope that that day, the rubes tune in, and Trump looks at them and says, "Man, you people are real chumps and rubes. Thanks for the ratings. Oh, by the way, Hee-Haw Nation, I'm not running, and I said all of this just for ratings. Now you fools can go find someone else to hang your stupid hopes on. Obama's a US citizen. Get over it! BWA-HA-HA!!!"

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 15, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

this is how a silvio berlusconi gets elected...

Posted by: walden on April 15, 2011 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

c u n d - that would be hilarious! But Trump is smarter than that. He won't want to burn the bridge to higher ratings for next season's Apprentice.
More likely, he will say that he didn't know the President's salary was so low and he can't take the pay cut. Then he'll run out and bankrupt another one of his businesses.

Posted by: Gridlock on April 15, 2011 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not running, and I said all of this just for ratings.

Better, "I just did it to prove how gullible people can be."

Posted by: Danp on April 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hear, hear. There's truly nothing wrong with America's politicians. But a substantial number of its voters are way fucked.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Trump's "birtherism" has been getting all the ink, but let's not forget his China Bashing. He has said, quite forcefully, that if he were President, he'd put high tariffs on imports, and blames China for our loss of jobs. That certainly resonates with the under and unemployed- a lot more than Obama's birthplace.

Posted by: DAY on April 15, 2011 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK


This was the bit that jumped out at me -

- "The same poll found 23% of Republican primary voters -- nearly a fourth -- will only consider birthers when picking a presidential candidate, while 38% will only consider candidates who reject the racist conspiracy theory (the rest weren't sure)." -

Wow. More than 1/3 of Republicans won't vote for a Birther, while almost 1/4 of them will only vote - for - a Birther.

This alone should make the GOP Primary Debates highly entertaining to watch. Which faction are they going to break with?

And for the record, I don't know if Trump will be there. Part of me thinks this is just a publicity campaign for his media career, but part of me can see him going all the way to the initial Primaries so he can squeeze every last dollar out of the rubes that make up the Wingnut base.


Posted by: Tony J on April 15, 2011 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Trump isn't going for the goal, he's going for the assist. It's like when Gretzky had the puck. Everyone would go to him because he was greatest goal scorer ever. But that always left someone open, and Gretzky would have an easy pass and assist to that guy. Trump is collecting the Birther votes and when he drops out, he'll hand those votes to the candidate who actually wants to win. It's actually a brilliant play. The real candidate doesn't get tarred by the Birther nonsense and still gets their votes.

Posted by: fostert on April 15, 2011 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I really do think Obama's main legacy will be his Presidency finally and clearly exposed the darkside of America's body politic.

Posted by: Archon on April 15, 2011 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

On the finale of Celebrity Apprentice Trump will get teary-eyed and emotional when he gives the total dollar amount the show raised for charity then announce dramatically, that he can't turn his back on all of those people and organizations that benefit so greatly from his show...therefore, he will not run for President.

Next season on Celebrity Apprentice!

Michele Bachmann, Bristol Palin, Meghan McCain, Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell and Victoria Jackson

vs

Rick Santorum, Chuck Norris, Jon Voit, Mike Huckabee, Eric Cantor and Ted Nugent

Posted by: SaintZak on April 15, 2011 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I think Steve is misunderestimating Donald Trump.

For most Republicans the Republican field is uninteresting. The most viable candidates are

Pawlenty, who is simply dull

and Romney, who brings nothing but self-conceit.

Donald Trump is a world-class spectacle of egomania and not-dullness, so if you're a Republican he beats the 'reasonable' candidates in their own strengths and beats the nuts by constantly putting his money where his mouth is, literally.

And, for Donald Trump, just saying you're thinking about running for president isn't really a publicity stunt. Any schmoe can do that.

For Donald Trump a publicity stunt is actually occupying the White House.

Posted by: cld on April 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

@fostert, that's an interesting insight and good example of why I persist in reading the comments.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 15, 2011 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding those polls......that one registered Republican who says he wouldn't even vote for a Republican for dog catcher - that would be me. The party is insane on steroids. Thanks MSM for playing the starring role in flushing this country down the toilet.

Posted by: chopin on April 15, 2011 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding those polls......that one registered Republican who says he wouldn't even vote for a Republican for dog catcher - that would be me. The party is insane on steroids. Thanks MSM for playing the starring role in flushing this country down the toilet.

Posted by: chopin on April 15, 2011 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Trump may think that all publicity is good publicity, but he is fast becoming a figure of ridicule for a majority of Americans (I say this without a poll, sue me). In my time on earth being aware of The Donald, I have always found him annoying and silly. But add to that a mean-spirited and completely unserious, or unseriouser, persona, and he has to lose appeal for all but the hard-core FOX audience. The execs at NBC (right?) may have initially salivated over his rise in the polls, and his wall to wall media presence. But they have to be worried that he is becoming such a joke that advertisers are turned off and ratings decline. Not right away, as morbid train-wreck viewing has its attractions in the short run, but soon, and for the rest of his life.

Posted by: Bill on April 15, 2011 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

the strain of madness running through today's Republican Party

It's a virulent strain, Steve. There seems to be no vaccine potent enough to stop it. It's treatment-resistant at this point. By next year the virus will have mutated into at least twelve related strains, each eager to be the first to infect the organism known as teapartius birtherian.

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on April 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I would have agreed with you that Trump isn't really running before this poll; now, I'm not so sure.

Yes, this probably started as a publicity gambit to get his show (down to #93 from the first seasons #7) and other businesses more income.

Now, however - he's the Republican front runner. That feeds an already massive ego, and I'm sure he's thinking about the long game and the income opportunities a term or two as President or even being a major party nominee could bring him.

He's probably aware that he'll lose some of his audience over his antics, but Trump is smart enough to know that you can make a lot more money of the rabid 25% than the tepid majority.

Posted by: Fides on April 15, 2011 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Idiots.

Posted by: g on April 15, 2011 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he's the Pied Piper of the age, leading all the vermin off a cliff. Figuratively of course.

Posted by: fuzed on April 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

It should be obvious to all that the people who accept Trump as a viable candidate live in the alternate "Alice in Wonderland World " universe known as the FAUX NOOZE Bubble. The place where reality fears to tread .

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on April 15, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

That "strain of madness" comes directly from Limbaugh/Beck/Faux News. It's a seed that's been carefully sown to take over America, but the grown-up plant may turn out to be Audrey II ("Feed Me, Seymour!") from Little Shop of Horrors, something that eventually devours the Republican party. God, I hope so.

Posted by: dalloway on April 15, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

The Party that was able to install a third-rate movie actor in the White House will have no qualms putting in a multi-millionaire Egotist. It just tells you that "Governing" is not something Republicans care about. However, as I've mentioned previously, the Big Wigs who actually run the GOP/TP are likely boiling over the idea that their carefully grown crop of Robot Candidates and overt racists could get blown off the table by a business opponent that would gleefully stomp on the Ailes Empire if he had the chance. The longer Trump's "campaign" goes on, the less time the Robot Candidates have to spew their racist, middle-class killing idiocy. In that way, it's kinda fun.

Posted by: T2 on April 15, 2011 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

The right-wing wants to pass birther laws?

They want a birther candidate?

I say let 'em go.

Obama will pull out his birth certificate - the longer he waits the better - and make 'em all look like the moron extremists they are.

Posted by: JEA on April 15, 2011 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding those polls......that one registered Republican who says he wouldn't even vote for a Republican for dog catcher - that would be me. The party is insane on steroids. Thanks MSM for playing the starring role in flushing this country down the toilet.

Posted by: chopin on April 17, 2011 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Trump - Huckabee 2012 - the tycoon and the preacher - would be a perfect picture of what the GOP has become - big business meets religious fundamentalism

Posted by: Vainglorious on April 18, 2011 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK
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