In a recent column, George Will bewailed the soiling of the Republican Party by its forced association with the "unprecedentedly and incorrigibly vulgar" Donald Trump, and basically pleaded with GOP leaders to ban Trump from future debates lest he permanently stain the party's reputation.
"Conservatives who flinch from forthrightly marginalizing Trump mistakenly fear alienating a substantial Republican cohort," Will writes with characteristic haughtiness, going on to argue that "the assumption that today’s Trumpites are Republicans is unsubstantiated and implausible." As he sees it, Trump supporters can't be establishment Republicans or social conservatives, and "they certainly are not tea partyers, those earnest, issue-oriented, book-club organizing activists who are passionate about policy. "
You read things like that, and you begin to understand that inside-the-Beltway types like Will could not be more out of touch if they were on board the Voyager space probe, which left Earth back in 1977 and is now some 12.3 billion miles away.
For example, according to a new CNN poll, just 38 percent of American voters have a favorable opinion of Trump, which is reassuring. However, among that "earnest, issue-oriented, book-club organizing" subset known as tea-party voters, 67 percent think highly of The Donald. In fact, he is far more popular among tea-party voters than Jeb Bush (37 percent), Scott Walker (52 percent) or John Kasich (36 percent).
In addition, 37 percent of Republican registered voters now tell CNN that Trump would be their first or second choice for their party's nomination, well above his July numbers and also well above the 23 percent who would take Bush as their first or second choice. Among tea-party voters, 41 percent would take Trump as their first or second choice.
And those aren't the truly alarming numbers:
- When registered Republican voters were asked which GOP candidate can best handle the economy, 45 percent said Donald Trump, up from 20 percent in late June. Bush came in second, at 9 percent. Seriously?
- When they were asked which GOP candidate can best handle illegal immigration, 44 percent said Trump, up from 13 percent in late June. Bush, now at 13 percent, came in second.
- When Republican voters were asked which Republican could best address the threat posed by ISIS, 32 percent said Trump, twice as many as Bush at 16 percent. (Lindsey Graham, who has pledged to build his campaign on that issue, got 1 percent.)
- Thirty-eight percent of Republican voters now think that Trump is their party's best bet to win the White House in 2016.
Will may refuse to see it -- he may daintily avert his eyes and yell "no no no!!" all he wishes-- but it is "unsubstantiated and implausible" to believe that Trump's supporters are NOT Republicans and are NOT conservatives and are NOT "a substantial Republican cohort". As the CNN poll and every other poll documents, they quite clearly are. And Will's anguish not withstanding, it is equally clear that Trump is not the cause of the party's difficulties, but rather its most glaring symptom. He is what they have wrought, and even if you make him go away, the underling issue will still remain.
The bottom line? Yes, I still believe that it is inconceivable for Trump to win the GOP nomination. But ....