TWO-THIRDS

1. It’s Wednesday, December 10, 2015.

Christmas Eve is two weeks from today.

2. The yin and yan of today’s New York Times/CBS News poll about Trump: He’s got the support of 35% of Republicans – and two-thirds of the country is either concerned or frightened by his candidacy.

Put it this way: If you’re for Trump, look to the person at the left, then look at the person at the right. BOTH of them think the guy you want is a disaster.

The 35% support among Republicans is interesting. To get the nomination, Trump needs to win delegates to the GOP convention in Cleveland. So he needs a first-place finish. He has to win either the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary in early February – right now, he’s ahead in both places.

If he were to win one or both of those, he would have some momentum going into the rest of the Republican primary process. You would expect the party’s elders to try to throw some kind of roadblock in his way –  a coalition behind one of the other candidates, a draft Mitt Romney or Condoleezza Rice movement, something.

The nomination isn’t quite in Trump’s grasp. But it is in his sights. And then we’ll see if the two-thirds of us who shudder at the thought of this guy even sniffing the White House have the wherewithal to stop him cold.

4. But there’s another interesting finding in the poll. Almost as large a percentage of the populace is concerned or frightened by a Hillary Clinton presidency as it is about Trump.

I can sit here and be bewildered by that. Or I can try to understand.

I keep believing that Clinton will get people to coalesce behind her once she secures the Democratic nomination. They’ll see the option, whether it’s Trump or one of the not-that-much-less-scary other Republicans, and realize that a dangerous path for the country to follow. And I keep believing that the possibility of a woman president will spark enthusiasm among her supporters.

Hillary Clinton might not face much of a challenge in her party – even if Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire. But she faces a daunting challenge – making this country comfortable with the idea of her as its leader. She should use the opportunity that Sanders and Martin O’Malley are giving her in the Democratic primaries, a chance to establish who she is and why she is a leader for the whole country.

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