With the winner-take-all Ohio presidential primary less than three weeks away, the latest poll from Quinnipiac University shows John Kasich behind Donald Trump in the governorís home state, 31 percent to 26 percent.
Kasichís No. 2 finish is better than in October, when he came in third, behind Trump and Ben Carson, but Trump has not focused much attention on this battleground state. After two successful campaigns for governor, itís safe to assume Republican voters here wonít be swayed much by Kasich appearing on the stump.
Yes, Trump has the highest unfavorable rating among the Republican contenders (36 percent to 14 percent for Kasich), and 32 percent of likely Republican voters say they would definitely not support Trump for the nomination. And, yes, Kasich is the strongest GOP contender in general election matchups with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, beating them by 17 and 19 points, respectively.
But what is striking about Trump is his competitive position across many groups in the GOP electorate and the solidity of his support. A whopping 78 percent of his supporters say their mind is made up, highest among the Republican candidates.
Among tea party voters, Trump beats Cruz, 35 percent to 34 percent, with Kasich at 11 percent. Among evangelicals, Cruz wins, 27 percent to 26 percent for Trump. Kasich is at 19 percent. Among very conservative voters, Cruz wins 30 percent to 27 percent for Trump, with Kasich at 15 percent.
Trump wins among somewhat conservative and moderate-to-liberal Republicans, with 33 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Kasich is a strong second.
Trump wins among men and, just slightly, among women. He wins among self-identified Republicans and independents and is competitive in every age group, winning among those 45 to 64 years old.
Many have held that Trumpís numbers so far represent a ceiling. They assume that those who do not support Trump are against him and would rally around an alternative. The Quinnipiac results throw that logic into question.
With such widespread support, why wouldnít Trump pick up adherents if other candidates drop out or weaken? The picture is further complicated for Kasich ó for whom a loss in Ohio would be devastating. His expansion of Medicaid deeply alienates tea party adherents and conservatives.
It appears that Cruz fizzling would help Trump in Ohio, not Kasich.
If anything, Trumpís negatives have probably hit a ceiling. He has attacked just about everybody you can think of, among them Mexican immigrants, the disabled, Muslims, Asians, African-Americans, Seventh-day Adventists, women, POWs and his opponents.
Which leads us to the media.
Well-respected commentators for major outlets have been ripping into Trumpís ideas in ways that in the not-too-distant past would have meant the end of a campaign, or at least the beginning of the end. Instead, Trump is thriving.
For example, we ran on our page Monday a column by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post in which she systematically dismantled what passes for Trumpís economic policies, calling Trump ďa charlatan.Ē Others on this page, among them conservatives George Will and Michael Gerson, also have flayed Trump.
In todayís increasingly fragmented media environment, such punches have, well, lost their punch. Gone are the days when Walter Cronkite turning against the Vietnam War or Richard Nixon during Watergate marked turning points in public opinion. Detailed reports donít seem to fit well into the way people consume news, if they do at all.
If the Republican establishment is reading, it hasnít been willing or able to shut down the self-funded Trump juggernaut.
Not only has Trump mastered the way the media works these days, using social media and cable news to his advantage, he has turned the tables by criticizing the media for unfair reporting.
The more criticism he gets, the more he can tell supporters the elitist national media are out to get him, which only reinforces his appeal as an ďoutsiderĒ candidate.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.