The rise of Donald Trump threatens Todd's narrative -- so last night, on NBC Nightly News, he talked about Trump as if he has little or nothing to do with the Republican Party. Here's a transcript of his discussion with Nightly News anchor Lester Holt:
LESTER HOLT: ... Chuck, first of all, today you said Trump has essentially hijacked the Republican Party. But he's not speaking to an empty room.
CHUCK TODD: No.
HOLT: A lot of people believe in what he is saying, and his poll numbers tend to go up after some of his more provocative statements. Will that be the case here?
TODD: Well, it could be, short term. Look, what he has done, though, is made it impossible for him to win a general election. Okay, he is not going to be able to attract other parts of what you need if he somehow got the Republican nomination. But look, he has created his own lane, if you will, of folks that are feeling insecure, folks -- and we've seen it, it sort of cuts across socioeconomic lines here a little bit, people without a college education who feel as if this country's changed on them, this country isn't the same -- and so at first Trump got their support by pointing to immigration, then he pointed to China, now he's pointing to Muslims, playing on this security fear. His support from these folks are real. These supporters, I think, have been brought into the political system by him. And the question is, will they be there when it counts for him in the primary? That's a question. But what happens to them if the Republican Party just throws Trump overboard? And that's why there's been such a tepid response.
Let me unpack that.
Earlier in the day, Todd said to MSNBC's Tamron Hall, "Donald Trump has hijacked the Republican Party, pure and simple." On one level, that's true -- the party was hoping to put on a presentable face going into the presidential election, and he's making that impossible.
But in another way, he hasn't "hijacked" anything -- he's just taken what Republicans say to one another on Fox, on talk radio, and in Breitbart comments sections and brought it out on the campaign trail without watering it down or translating it into euphemisms.
Todd asserts that Trump's nasty proposal could help him in the polls "short term." Why "short term"? I'm guessing this is the standard pundit line: Yeah, Trump's had the lead for five months, but hey, no one's voted yet, so Jeb could still win!
Now, let me talk about Todd's assertion that Trump "has created his own lane" of supporters who "have been brought into the political system by him." This assertion suggests that Trump's supporters simply weren't Republicans until now. It's based on the fact that Trump doesn't do quite as well in polls of habitual GOP voters as he does in polls that include people who aren't in the habit of voting. But the thing is, Trump still tops nearly every poll regardless of the sampled population, and when he's not first (for instance, in the recent Monmouth poll of Iowa), he's a strong second.
So people who've been Republican voters all along love him, too. And the ones who reject him prefer fellow wacko birds such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Have they all "hijacked the party"?
Todd loves the notion that Trump's voters might follow him out of the party, because that means they're not real Republicans, and Todd's precious GOP can still be described as pure. But those voters have been Republicans. They sure aren't Democrats.
And I know that the new Suffolk UniversityUSA Today poll reports that 68% of Trump voters would vote for him if he ran third party, but the same poll says that if Trump stays in the GOP, Hillary Clinton beats him by only 4 points, 48%-44%. In other words, Trump loses by approximately the same margin as John McCain and Mitt Romney. So we can infer that a whole lot of McCain and Romney voters would have no trouble voting Trump in the fall if he's the Republican nominee. They're not fleeing Trump in horror because he's such an unacceptable Republican.
Trump may be offputting to a certain percentage of Republicans, but Trumpism didn't come from nowhere. It came from the right. It came from conservative, GOP-oriented media.