One editor tweeted this morning: “America may be one major terrorist attack away from Donald Trump as president.” Another prominent journalist added: “Keeps me up at night.”You'd be forgiven for finding this plausible -- after all, here's Nate Silver telling us that terrorism does help Trump:
... the Paris and San Bernardino attacks appeared to boost his standing in national opinion polls....Yes, after Trump made inflammatory statements in response to terrorist attacks, his poll numbers rose -- in the Republican primaries. They didn't rise in head-to-head matchups with Hillary Clinton.
... Trump’s national polls had stagnated in the mid-to-high 20s in the two months before Paris....
But the Paris and San Bernardino attacks were associated with an uptick in Trump’s numbers.... Trump improved from 28 percent of the vote just before the Paris attacks to 32 percent on Dec. 1, the day before the San Bernardino attacks. His numbers then rose further, to about 35 percent by mid-December.
Here's the chart of the Trump/Clinton matchup, from Real Clear Politics:
I can't pinpoint the dates of the two attacks in the screengrab, but if you go to the RCP link and look at the race on the date of the Paris attacks, November 13, you see that Clinton has a lead of 4.4. points over Trump on that day -- and then her lead basically stays flat for the rest of November. The race narrows in early December (mostly because of one mid-November Fox News poll showing Trump up by 5) -- but then, after the early-December San Bernardino attack, Clinton's lead over Trump actually increases, to as much as 6.6 points by December 18. It remains at 5 or greater for the rest of the month.
RCP's chart of Trump vs. Sanders doesn't go back to last year, but the HuffPost Pollster chart does -- and the results are similar:
Sanders leads Trump by 0.7% on November 13. The Fox poll comes out a few days later, showing Trump beating Sanders as well as Clinton. And then the Sanders lead over Trump expands, remaining significant all through December, even after San Bernardino.
So, no, Trump's saber-rattling after terrorist attacks doesn't impress everybody -- just Republicans.