There are yards yet to run and a lot of football left to play but, if you listen to political prognosticators, the 2016 presidential race is all over but the shouting as newly released national polls show Donald Trump headed for a stinging defeat in the fall.
His bombastic, bone-headed rantings about women and minorities have cost him “big league,” to borrow Trump’s own parlance. And, with President Obama hitting the campaign trail in North Carolina next week, the presumptive Republican nominee could have farther to fall.
But there’s a lot of time still on the clock, and almost anything can happen between now and November.
Right now, though, the numbers are almost too dismal to believe. The New York businessman, whose name adorns high-rise buildings, resorts and country clubs from the shores of North Miami Beach to the fairways of Turnberry, Scotland, is losing by nearly every metric. Not only does he trail Hillary Clinton by eight to 12 points, and much more among non-whites, women and younger voters, but his current lead among white men is perilously small when compared to those of Mitt Romney and John McCain at this point in the last two presidential elections.
Trump is currently on course to lose the African American vote by a larger margin than any presidential candidate since the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified in 1870. Even if he should manage to win, his abysmal support among Hispanics, a block heavily courted by the GOP in recent years, should worry every Republican.
More importantly, they should be concerned that 61 percent of poll respondents believe “the campaign is increasing hatred and prejudice in the United States.” Sixty-seven percent blame Trump.
Yet while Trump has now shaken up his small team of advisors, he’s shown little sign of the pivot to being presidential he kept promising during the primary. His use of a TelePrompTer for big speeches notwithstanding, Trump still relies on the same us-vs.-them, talking points that garnered rounds of raucous applause in the primary. “They”—who are many of us—have responded accordingly.
If there is a “presidential” Trump, he has not yet shown himself. Still, while his tone is darker than Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” the message is largely the same: white men are getting the short end of the stick. As Reagan well knew, that resonates in many quarters of the country.
It is no coincidence that Trump often bellows about “taking our country back” or that he rails against “political correctness,” just as it was no coincidence that Reagan gave his famous “states’ rights” speech in Neshoba County, Mississippi—the same place where three young civil rights activists were brutally murdered in the summer of 1964.
The sectarian, small tent politics that Sarah Palin returned to the national stage, and that Trump is using now, are nothing more than a bastardized version of Lee Atwater's tattered playbook. Even after the RNC published its famous autopsy after Romney’s defeat, the late Housing Secretary and Rep. Jack Kemp’s vision of expanding the GOP base to include more non-white voters has continued to wither away.
But don’t get cocky yet. Sure, it may be hard to believe that a fear mongering, know-nothing charlatan would be able to capture the American imagination (and headlines) in the way Trump has— let alone win election to the highest office in the land. But we’ve heard these cries of Peak Trump ever since he first entered the race, and he’s had more lives than a horror movie villain. Taking solace in the recent round of polling data would be fool-hearted, especially as he leads by nearly 20 points among white men.
Trump is a man who knows no border. And that should scare all of us.