By Tory Newmyer
December 5, 2015

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

If you’re still confounded by Donald Trump’s staying power atop the GOP field — partly because you’ve spent any time observing him, and partly because very few if any of the people you know who’re inclined to vote in the Republican primary count themselves as Trump supporters — then a poll that CNN released Friday might help clear things up. The national survey found Trump’s backing reaching 36%, an all-time high in that poll that places the bombastic billionaire a whopping 20 points ahead of his nearest rival (per the poll, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz now places second, displacing a downwardly mobile Ben Carson).

The key to understanding those results lies under the poll’s hood. Among those without a college degree, Trump extends his lead to 46% of likely voters; but he registers just 18% among those with a college degree, good for fourth place. It’s easy enough to identify what’s driving the disparity. Beyond the general appeal of Trump’s rage-fueled pitch to a dispossessed conservative base, his militance toward illegal immigrants has won him the allegiance of voters who know the party’s elite is anxious to provide them a path to citizenship. On the issue, the balance of the Republican rank-and-file side with Trump: the CNN poll finds 53% of GOP voters want illegals deported, even if only 27% believe that’s possible.

Data crunchers pooh-pooh the poll’s top lines, noting in part that national surveys hold limited predictive power over a selection process that hopscotches from state to state. But with 57 days until the Iowa caucuses, Trump still claims a 7-point edge there, according the RealClearPolitics polling average — and a 15-point edge in follow-up New Hampshire. An increasingly frantic establishment is chambering Nerf bullets to try to take him down.

Correction: Yesterday’s note included a bad link for the look from our new issue into how Vinod Khosla’s marquis bet on a biofuels startup unraveled. We’re happy for the opportunity to promote it here, because while it’s essentially a business story (and a great read besides), there’s also a deeply political dimension. The company — KiOR, which promised to give oil giants a run for their money by producing fuel from pine chips — relied on a $75 million loan from Mississippi to get its first commercial facility up and running. Its bankruptcy has left the state on the hook, offering a cautionary tale about the perils of elected leaders chasing ribbon cuttings.

Yet where the U.S. is faltering in bringing homegrown clean-energy technologies along, China is picking up the slack. For a fuller picture of the pipeline siphoning American innovation across the Pacific, read Jeffrey Ball’s latest feature, examining how the Chinese are pouring money into Silicon Valley’s brightest-green prospects to meet their country’s rapidly growing need for renewable energy.

Tory Newmyer


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