Over the last few days, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made it clear that he’s playing the same cards that helped him bully the GOP establishment into lying down during the primaries and win the nomination. Never mind that his various campaign trail missteps have brought huge amounts of negative publicity down on his head.
The system is “rigged” against him, Trump will claim. He used that storyline to great effect in the primary, making GOP leaders palpably fearful of offending him. The worry was that he might be able to convince his small but vocal core of voters to bolt the party if he asked them to -- a deathblow to the GOP’s hopes of regaining the White House in an election where demographics mean Republicans could afford no mistakes.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a serious obstacle to Trump’s strategy emerged in the form of a poll sponsored by the Trump-friendly Fox News Network. To be clear, that’s Fox News -- the network that employs Sean Hannity, the television host who has been Trump’s most ardent supporter, and Bill O’Reilly, who runs a close second.
The poll released late Wednesday afternoon was the first from Fox since the end of June, meaning that it should have fully captured the changes in the race since both Trump and Clinton were officially made their parties’ nominees at their respective national conventions.
The results suggest that if Trump is going to continue pushing the idea that the system is “rigged,” he’s going to need to find a narrative that includes Fox News being co-opted as part of the conspiracy.
The Fox poll was last conducted at the end of June and it showed Clinton ahead by six percentage points nationally, 44 to 38. On Wednesday, the margin spiked to 10 percentage points, 49 percent for Clinton and 39 percent for Trump.
Clinton has enjoyed 10-plus point margins in the Fox poll, but not since the spring, and certainly not since Trump has had the ability to turn his full focus on her. As recently as May, Trump was leading Clinton by a 45-42 margin.
On Wednesday, Clinton’s lead in the poll had ballooned back up to 10 points, 49-39. More significantly, she matched the highest percentage of the vote in the poll she has had in months -- even after both parties completed their conventions.
The Fox poll also registered President Obama’s approval rating at 52 percent, the highest it has been since early in his first term, and found the percentage of Americans happy with the direction of the country was the highest it’s been since 2013.
There are, of course, many weeks to go before the election. But if Trump sticks to the path he appears to be taking, that path is looking pretty steep.