The Corner

Poll: Trump Surges Past Hillary, Biden, Sanders, and Gore — Here Are Some Reasons Why

Drudge is headlining this poll from SurveyUSA, not only showing Trump beating Hillary by five (45-40) but also beating Joe Biden (44-42), Bernie Sanders (44-40), and Al Gore (44-41) in potential head-to-head matchups — a remarkable turnaround from initial polling showing Hillary decisively beating Trump. As Drudge points out, perhaps the most surprising aspect of the poll is that Trump is polling at 25% of the black vote, a number Republicans haven’t seen for generations.

A few observations: First, Trump is demonstrating the awesome power of his decades-long turn in the American spotlight. His is no fifteen minutes of fame. Those who live and breathe politics often forget that they inhabit a world of sub-sub-sub-celebrity, with Twitter fights and blog wars conducted largely out of public view. The recent Meek Mill/Drake beef likely garnered more public attention than a decade of political gaffes and fights — unless those gaffes are artificially magnified by millions of dollars in paid ads. One of the reasons why candidates spend vast sums of money is to literally introduce themselves to the American public. The parties race to “define” relative nobodies in the public eye.

To take one example, back in 2006 Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, a multi-hundred-millionaire, and the former head of the Winter Olympics, yet his name recognition stood well below 5 percent nationally (it may have stood closer to 1 percent). Even by 2012 — after six years of off-and-on running for president, he was sufficiently mysterious to the American people that the Obama campaign could literally define him from scratch — as the opposite of the human being he actually is. Trump is immune from this kind of “defining” process. Any given news cycle or any given gaffe is a drop in the ocean of public information and experience with The Donald — especially when his public personae is built around an outsize, fearless personality. 

Second, Trump’s reality TV experience is overwhelmingly beneficial. I’ve probably watched more “Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” than every other NR writer combined (We Frenches love our reality TV, and I even tried out for “Survivor” once — the producers were unimpressed), and Trump has spent years projecting an image of strength and business expertise to a cumulative audience easily in the hundreds of millions. On that show, he’s the adult in the room — the authority figure (“Mr. Trump”) who treats everyone — black and white, male and female — with the same toughness. People who scoff at reality TV as a genre should understand that it has the same variations in quality as scripted television, and “Apprentice” has been on the high end of reality TV for a very long time.

Third, Hillary is falling, and no one is really rising to take her place. Because the scandal involves work email — something most people understand — it’s is far easier to grasp than, say, cattle futures or law firm billing records, or land deals gone awry. Everyone understands that mixing work and personal email is deeply problematic — and doing so with national security information is doubly so. That’s not going to sway the partisans, of course, but we can see that it’s already swaying many, many others. 

As the race progresses (and it’s still very early) there is a bit more support for the “realignment” theory of Trump’s rise. If a Republican could, in fact, gain 25 percent of the black vote, that would shake the Democratic party to its foundations. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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