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Was It a Good Strategy to Shut Down Trump’s Rally in Chicago?

It might have given his fans even more passion—but it also seems to have shaken the GOP establishment even further.

Cleaning up after Friday’s rally   Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

On Friday, Kevin Pang visited the Donald Trump rally for Chicago. His conclusion? Nothing happened, until the rally didn’t, "for most of the day leading up to the 6:34 p.m. thunderclap, the rally was boring as hell.” (Perhaps it was the music, which Pang reported as being Weather Report-ish prog-jazz; is that the secret to keeping a divided house standing?)

Donald Trump came to a city with an activist community that, right now, is exceptionally well-organized, not to mention well-practiced. For much attention as the Trump rally shutdown received, it was really a sideshow in comparison to the months of protests and actions focused on Rahm Emanuel, Anita Alvarez, and the Chicago Police Department; the first is tremendously unpopular, the second is facing a strong challenge tomorrow in the Democratic primary, and the third lost its leader in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. For Politico, Keith O’Brien got a fascinating look inside how Trump’s rally was stopped, and it details the considerable planning that went into it; it reflects a city with a robust activist community.

But after it happened, there was a backlash, and not just from Trump supporters. There was concern among the left that shutting down a political rally, even one for as reviled a candidate as Trump, goes against the aims of democracy, and that silencing Trump would only send more “silent majority” voters to pull the lever for him.

The first is a philosophical question, but the second we can actually try to observe. This morning, for instance, a new poll from Monmouth University found that 22 percent of Floridians polled (a relatively small sample of 293 likely Republican voters) were more likely to vote for Trump because of the weekend’s chaos and Trump’s response, compared with 11 percent that were less likely, and 66 percent for whom it would make no impact.

But Monmouth also asked the same question of likely GOP primary voters in Ohio (this time, 324 voters). There, 16 percent said they were more likely, 14 percent less likely, and 67 percent said it had no impact. With a margin of error of 5.5 percent, it’s basically a wash.

What’s the difference? Perhaps it’s that Trump is doing well in Florida and not in Ohio. He’s almost certainly going to win Florida; he’s probably not going to win Ohio. John Kasich, who is running as a relative moderate, has very high approval ratings in Monmouth’s sample. In Monmouth’s sample, Trump is also less popular in Ohio when it comes to brass tacks: only 64 percent of those polled would vote for him versus Hillary Clinton, while it’s 74 percent in Florida.

And there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest the aborted Chicago rally shook the GOP establishment. Will it be able to support a candidate that leaves this kind of chaos in his wake? Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins has his finger on that pulse:

When Ohio and Florida are over, we’ll know a lot more about the future of Trump’s campaign and the GOP. If he wins both, it’s basically over. If he doesn’t, and it looks like he won’t, the odds of a contested convention go way up, as veteran GOP lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg details in fascinating and terrifying length. It’s a process that could give party regulars a lot of power—and if they fear Trump, they could try to take power from him.

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