After a wild and troubling month in which he denounced the integrity of a federal judge because of his Mexican heritage, doubled-downed on his vow to bar Muslims from entering the country and repeatedly questioned President Obama’s loyalty following last weekend’s terrorist attack on a gay bar in Orlando, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump appears to be getting his political comeuppance.
Trump rewrote the political playbook in the 2016 GOP presidential campaign as he knocked off rivals left and right. He even boasted in January that he was so popular with Republican voters that, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
Yet his escalating rhetoric and rants have made many in his own party back away, and voters appear to have increasing doubts about him.
A spate of new polls released this week show widespread public disapproval of Trump and his candidacy, considerable unease over his response to gunman Omar Mateen’s killing of 49 people in the Florida nightclub, and – at least for now – a 12-point voter preference for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee who has popularity problems of her own.
While there are months to go before the November general election, the new surveys suggest that Trump has hit the first major pothole of his candidacy and may be finding that the bombastic, take-no-prisoners style that helped him lock up the nomination is not working at this critical juncture in the campaign.
“Trump never had Teflon with anybody but his 35-40 percent slice of the GOP,” University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato said on Wednesday. “That's more than enough to win a nomination with 17 candidates in the field, but it doesn't translate to a much larger, diverse electorate in November.”
Trump has been on a rhetorical rampage for weeks, first insisting that a federal judge in Texas overseeing a class action fraud suit that was brought against the now defunct Trump University couldn’t be objective because of his Mexican heritage and inherent bias against Trump’s call for deporting millions of illegal immigrants and building a wall along the southern border.
Many Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), publicly repudiated Trump’s assault on the judge and urged him to tone down his language and focus more on issues that voters care about.
Then, while Obama and Clinton were calling for calm pending the outcome of the investigation into the Orlando shootings – the worst mass murders in U.S. history – Trump lashed out at Obama, suggesting that the president was somehow sympathetic to or connected with terrorists.
In a speech Monday, Trump repeated his long-standing call to ban Muslims from entering the country until the U.S. government gets a better handle on the domestic terrorism, and expanded the potential impact of that ban by including residents of any country “with a history of terrorism” against the U.S. and its allies.
But new polls point to a less than enthusiastic reception for many of Trump’s attacks. Among the polls’ findings:
* A record seven in 10 Americans view Trump unfavorably, up 10 percentage points in just the past month and the highest level of voter animosity since he formally announced for president a year ago, according to a Washington Post-ABC News national poll. Just 29 percent of Americans view the presumptive GOP nominee in a favorable light.
Trump fairs better among Republicans than Democrats, not surprisingly. But just 15 percent of all Americans “strongly” view him in a favorable light while 56 percent “strongly” view him unfavorably. Sixty-two percent of men say they have an unfavorable view of Trump, while 77 percent of women are hostile to him.
Trump’s approval rating among racial and ethnic minorities is remarkably low, with 94 percent of blacks and 89 percent of Hispanics rating the New York billionaire unfavorably.
* Clinton is also carrying plenty of political baggage into the general election campaign, including the controversy over her misuse of email during her tenure as secretary of state, her policies on Iraq and the Middle East, and her coziness with Wall Street. According to the Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Tuesday, 55 percent of Americans disapprove of her while only 43 percent approve, roughly the same as a month ago.
* Clinton is leading the race. While Trump and Clinton have the dubious distinction of being the least popular presumptive major party nominees over the past three decades, for now at least a plurality of Americans are supporting Clinton for president.
A new Bloomberg poll shows Clinton leading Trump by 12 percentage points, 49 percent to 37 percent, heading into the July national conventions fall campaign, while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson received nine percent. The remainder of those surveyed said they will not vote or aren’t sure of who they will support.
“Clinton has a number of advantages in this poll, in addition to her lead,” according to pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey for Bloomberg. “Her supporters are more enthusiastic than Trump’s and more voters overall see her becoming a more appealing candidate than say that for Trump.”
* The Orlando attack. Finally, a new CBS News poll conducted Monday and Tuesday shows that Americans give Obama net positive ratings of 44 percent to 34 percent in his response to the Orlando shooting, while 22 percent had no opinion.
At the same time, 51 percent of Americans surveyed disapprove of Trump’s response to the weekend shootings, while only 25 percent said they approved of his conduct. Trump’s proposal for barring Muslims other than U.S. citizens from entering the country enjoys little support nationwide. Sixty-two percent of Americans say the government should not ban Muslims from entering the country while 31 percent support the idea.
As for Clinton, the public is divided: 36 percent of those interviewed approved of her more measured response to the shootings and call for gun control, while 34 percent disapproved and 30 percent had no opinion