Quite a few Donald Trump fans are convinced that their man would beat Hillary Clinton resoundingly in a general election, carrying a slew of blue states where Republicans aren’t generally competitive in general elections.
Wayne Allyn Root’s assessment is typical. “New York is only the start,” he wrote. Trump can win Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio, too, Root contends, because there are lots of middle- and working-class voters there who relish Trump’s honesty and politically incorrect style.
In New York, the most recent Siena poll has Clinton beating Trump, 57 percent to 34 percent. This is not a reflection of phenomenal popularity on her part; the survey finds 48 percent of registered voters in the Empire State feel favorable to her, and the same percentage feels unfavorable. But, the protestations of Root and other boosters aside, voters in Trump’s home state like him even less than Clinton; only 29 percent have a favorable view of him, compared with 59 percent who see him unfavorably. And what limited support Trump does get in New York doesn’t come from blue-collar voters, either: He does best among those who make more than $100,000 per year, and a full 64 percent of voters in that group still have an unfavorable opinion of him.
In Michigan, the latest Marist poll has Clinton ahead of Trump, 52 percent to 36 percent. The exit poll from that state’s GOP primary found that 48 percent of its participants would be “dissatisfied” if Trump won the nomination, and 50 percent did not think Trump was “honest and trustworthy.”
Trump is at least within single digits of Clinton in the two biggest Rust-Belt states. The Republican firm Harper Polling finds Clinton ahead of Trump, 45 percent to 40 percent, in Pennsylvania, while in Ohio, PPP has Clinton ahead by the same margin and CNN has her ahead 50 percent to 43 percent.
Trump loves to cite his poll numbers during the debates, but he never mentions the fact that Clinton has beaten him in 24 of the last 28 head-to-head national polls.
Trump loves to cite his poll numbers during the debates, but he never mentions the fact that Clinton has beaten him in 24 of the last 28 head-to-head national polls. And his numbers in those polls have worsened over time. In the December ABC News/Washington Post poll, Clinton led Trump 50 percent to 44 percent; she now leads him 50 percent to 41 percent in the same poll. In January, Trump trailed her in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll 51 percent to 41 percent; in that poll’s latest edition, last week, she led him 51 percent to 38 percent. In December, CNN showed Clinton ahead 49 percent to 47 percent; their late February poll showed her ahead 52 percent to 44 percent.
There are those who argue that head-to-head polling is meaningless this far from the general election. But note that Trump and Clinton have the lowest percentage of respondents who have no opinion of them — just about every potential voter already knows them, and just about every potential voter has a strong feeling about them one way or the other. The electorate dislikes and distrusts Trump much more than the average presidential contender. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found 30 percent of adults think favorably of Trump, and 67 percent think unfavorably. An astonishing 56 percent of respondents had a strongly unfavorable opinion of the most likely Republican nominee.
To many political professionals, that the probable GOP nominee began the year with such gargantuan disapproval numbers means the general election is a foregone conclusion.
“Based on all of the data I have seen, the answer to the question, ‘Does Donald Trump have a path to victory in November?’ is clearly ‘No,’” Republican pollster Ed Goeas warned in a memo this weekend. “The question is, how many down-ballot Republicans will he take with him?”
Joel Benenson, a senior strategist for the Clinton campaign, recently said he doesn’t foresee Trump posing any particular threat in states such as New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. “I don’t see any state that Democrats have won five out of six times, or six out of six times, that Trump, at face value, poses a threat in.”Is it absolutely impossible for Trump to overcome his current disapproval numbers, reverse his head-to-head polling deficit and win? No. Clinton could still get indicted by the Department of Justice and refuse to let go of the Democratic nomination. The country could suffer another San Bernardino– or Paris-style terrorist attack and Clinton could respond with another tone-deaf insistence that “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” The kind of leftist protestors seen in Chicago on Friday night could do something so heinous and reprehensible that it creates enormous sympathy for Trump.
But barring some sort of dramatic turn of events, it seems exceedingly likely that a general electorate of around 130 million will look at a Clinton it distrusts and a Trump it detests and choose the lesser evil.
The Republican party is speeding toward a canyon, and its primary voters still refuse to hit the brakes.
— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.