[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
Donald Trump's recent surge to the front of Republican presidential primary polls has been confirmed by Public Policy Polling:
Only 38% of Republican primary voters say they're willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory and those folks want Mitt Romney to be their nominee for President next year. With the other 62% of Republicans- 23% of whom say they are only willing to vote for a birther and 39% of whom are not sure- Donald Trump is cleaning up. And as a result Trump's ridden the controversy about Barack Obama's place of birth to the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011.Interestingly, Politico's Ben Smith thinks that even asking such poll questions is absurd:
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.
Among that 23% only willing to vote for a birther Trump is cleaning up even more, getting 37% to 13% for Huckabee and Palin, and 10% for Romney and Gingrich. He's a lot weaker with the 38% who say they're perfectly happy to vote for someone who's dismissed the birther theory- with them Romney leads at 23%, with Huckabee at 18%, Trump at 17%, Gingrich at 10%, and Palin at only 7%.
Who seriously thinks Republican primary voters spend much time thinking about whether birth certificate views disqualify a candidate, much less are going to vote on those purported views. It's really a great example of the deep irrelevance of most early polling.Actually, Smith's remark is typical of someone who lives deep inside the Beltway bubble and doesn't get out and mix much those ordinary voters out in the heartland. Because if you talk to Tea Partying Republican voters out in the heartland, these issues are very much a big deal to them. A large percentage of these voters have harbored doubts about Obama's citizenship for some time even if they haven't wholly embraced the Birther theories -- and as Trump legitimizes them, both the theories and Trump have gained traction with them.
Of course, Trump is also gaining traction with the Tea Partiers -- a majority of whom take the Birther claims quite seriously -- because he embodies so many of their values in many other regards, particularly their Randian/right-wing populist fantasies about the immense innate wisdom of our captains of industry. Really, this is the Donald Galt candidacy.
But the synchronicity of Trump's Birtherism with its resurgence among Republican primary voters is not merely an accident. At first, it appeared that Trump was just trying to make the rest of the GOP field look sane and intelligent by comparison. But what's become clear instead is that their embrace of Trump reflects their willingness to ardently embrace claims and ideas that are provably untrue as long as they undermine -- or better yet, functionally delegitimize -- your political opponents.
Last night on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, his "Great American Panel" (loaded up, as usual, with a preponderance of right-wingers with a token liberal/voice of sanity) was claiming that Trump's ascension was "making liberal heads spin", even as Hannity was asserting that "the best case" Democrats have for proving Obama's Hawaiian birth is the independent corroboration provided by the Hawaiian newspaper birth announcements (rather than the fact that Hawaiian officials say they have his long form on record there, and have issued a short-form birth certificate attesting to this fact).
It may be true that liberal heads are spinning -- and for that matter, as Ben Smith indicates, so are those of the Beltway villagers and corporate conservatives, all of whom cannot conceive of the reality that, yes, the American Right really has gone insane. We've been saying it for awhile now, you'll notice. Indeed, we even wrote a book about it.
Too many liberals, particularly those inside the Beltway, continue to believe that they can negotiate with these people. But the reality is, you can't even have a normal conversation with them. Eventually they're going to go tearing off into some Obama/socialist/Marxist/Caliphate conspiracy theory or another. And you'll be left sitting there with a gaping mouth.
Trump really is proving what we've been saying along: the Right has gone completely over a cliff. The question now is whether they'll take the rest of us with them.