The Slatest

Trump Isn’t Hemorrhaging Republican Voters. He’s Just Losing.

Donald Trump greets supporters outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan on Saturday.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The first public opinion surveys conducted after the leak of Donald Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” video came out Sunday and they’re … not as bad as they could be? That’s still a good distance from being good for Donald Trump. But right now, they’re nestled in that sweet spot that’s both discouraging for Trump and for the Republican officials who’ve denounced and renounced their support. He’s likely to recede sharply among independents, but maintain most of the swagger he had with the party base.

CBS/YouGov conducted its battleground state polling of registered voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin from Oct. 5 through Oct. 7 and then “recontacted” participants in Ohio and Pennsylvania on the Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 to ask them about the recording. Among Trump supporters who had heard about the tape, 91 percent in Ohio and 90 percent in Pennsylvania said “the tapes have had no impact on their view of Trump.” Eight percent of Trump supporters said the tape makes them think less of Trump, while two percent—America’s finest—think more highly of him.

The findings from a Politico/Morning Consult poll also released Sunday morning aren’t quite as neat, but they still show the party rank-and-file standing behind Trump. “Nearly three-quarters of Republican voters, 74 percent, surveyed on Saturday said party officials should continue to support Trump,” Politico writes. “Only 13 percent think the party shouldn’t back him.” (Oddly enough, 70 percent of surveyed Democrats said Trump should “end his campaign.” They probably saw the question as another vehicle for registering their dislike of Trump. But perhaps these Democrats should think about the question a little harder.)

Where things get hairy for Trump is among undecided voters and those currently supporting third parties. “[A]mong those in Ohio and Pennsylvania who are undecided or supporting third-party candidates,” CBS/YouGov finds, “less than 1% think better of Trump after the tapes and 48% think worse.” Keep in mind, as well, that some people in this country—I’ve heard about this only second-hand—apparently spend their Friday nights and Saturdays doing what are known as “fun activities” beyond reading Politics Twitter and watching or listening to awful political news. Not everyone has heard the tape yet, and even if everyone had, the impact wouldn’t be fully baked into the results overnight.

Even if the recording, once fully absorbed, doesn’t send rank-and-file Republican voters fleeing from the nominee, Trump still won’t be moving in the right direction. He was losing in nearly all swing states before the tape came out. Now he’ll have to work to retain Republican voters and use some sort of dark, ancient witchcraft spells to add the undecideds and soft Clinton supporters he needs to win.

And for the rest of the Republican Party? It varies depending on each candidate’s position. There was no way that Sen. Kelly Ayotte, for example, could continue to hitch her campaign in any way to the Trump Train. Though it seemed in Saturday’s whirlwind that nearly all elected Republican leaders had renounced their support of Trump, though, the vast majority are still behind him. That’s because the vast majority of Republican voters are, too, and those who represent them are inviting political trouble for themselves if they appear to be abetting the election of Hillary Clinton. 

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.