The Trump Show continues to draw massive ratings.
In a new national poll from Quinnipiac out Thursday, Donald Trump tops the crowded GOP field with the support of 20 percent of likely Republican voters—the largest slice of the GOP pie any single candidate has claimed in the seven national surveys those same pollsters have taken during the past two years. It’s only one poll, but it’s anything but an outlier: Trump’s support is nearly identical to his current RealClearPolitics polling average of 19.8 percent, and his 7-point lead on second-place Scott Walker is in line with his 6.2-point lead on the field he’s averaged over the five most recent national polls, all of which he’s led. Those surveys don’t tell us anything about the future but they tell us plenty about the present: Trump has quickly cobbled together a larger coalition of supporters than any of the 16 other Republicans gunning for their party’s presidential nomination have this year.
We know Trump’s current run can’t last forever. The question, then, is just how long The Donald can keep this up. The most recent survey was conducted over a several-day stretch that ended this past Tuesday, so most respondents weren’t aware of the latest Trump controversies: his tough-talking lawyer who briefly denied spousal rape was possible, old legal documents that show Trump told an opposing lawyer that she was “disgusting” for wanting to take a break to pump breast milk during a legal deposition, and an independent analysis that found Trump’s alleged “10 BILLION DOLLAR” fortune is actually worth less than a third of that. Still, at this point it would be a surprise if any of those developments—or the next round, for that matter—erode his support.
This is a man, after all, whom millions of Americans spent more than a decade watching berate contestants on his reality show, and who launched his campaign with a rambling, xenophobic rant about immigrants. Anyone who liked what Trump was saying then is unlikely to be turned off—or even surprised—by similarly incendiary comments that come out of Trump HQ past or present. They certainly weren’t earlier this month when Trump took an unprompted shot at John McCain’s military career, or when he shared Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number with the world. The fact that Trump has been steadfastly unapologetic in the face of an onslaught of criticism that followed only appears to be helping his cause. (That lawyer he once called disgusting he now calls “horrible.”) As one member of a Bloomberg focus group in New Hampshire recently put it: “He stayed with what he believed in, and that's, to me, what I'm looking for.” Trump may sound crazy to many Americans, but to a certain, decent-sized subset of conservative voters, he’s the only candidate who’s making any sense.
Elsewhere in Slate: The Case for Covering Trump: Why we shouldn’t ignore his doomed campaign.