After last month's terrorist violence in Paris, a variety of pundits predicted Donald Trump's support in Republican presidential polling would falter. After all, the argument went, the mass murders would remind GOP voters about the seriousness of the election, which would necessarily mean a shift towards more serious candidates.
The opposite happened. Trump's support went up.
Last week, the New York developer caused international uproar when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, prompting more punditry about Trump's inevitable decline, and a new round of has-he-gone-too-far-this-time speculation. But note the newly released Monmouth poll on the state of the GOP race nationally.
1. Donald Trump: 41% (up from 28% in a Monmouth poll in October)
2. Ted Cruz: 14% (up from 10%)
3. Marco Rubio: 10% (up from 6%)
4. Ben Carson: 9% (down from 18%)
The rest of the Republican field is at 3% or lower.
Trump's 41% support is easily the strongest performance of any GOP candidate in any national Monmouth poll conducted this year. The previous best was 30%, which was where Trump stood in September. It's obviously just one poll, but these results point to a landscape in which Trump has an eight-point lead over Cruz, Rubio, and Carson combined.
What's more, this same poll found that nearly two-thirds of Republican voters (65%) agree that Trump has the right temperament for the presidency. His overall favorability rating is up nine points, to 61%, since October.
Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute said in a statement, "It has become abundantly clear that Trump is giving his supporters exactly what they want, even if what he says causes the GOP leadership and many Republican voters to cringe."
It's worth pausing to appreciate how true this is. Since Trump announced his proposed Muslim ban, three major national polls have been released: Monmouth, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and CBS/New York Times. All three show Trump's support going up.
Three major polls of Iowa Republicans have been released over the same period: Des Moines Register/Bloomberg, Fox News, and Quinnipiac. Two of the three show Trump's support going up, and the other is the first of the year, so there is no trendline.
There was also a major poll conducted of New Hampshire Republicans, and it too found Trump's support growing, not shrinking.
I'm glad there were some Republican officials last week who denounced Trump's bigotry, but it's important to appreciate the fact that those critics are out of step with the party's right-wing base -- even as Trump gives voice to what the far-right activists believe.