The Case for Trump Over Clinton Is a Loser
Donald Trump says he'll be a dynamite general election candidate, winning reliably Democratic states like New York and Pennsylvania and capturing unprecedented "crossover" votes from Democrats and independents. Many other Republicans say he'd be a disaster.
Who's right? As of now, the pessimists. Trump, the best surveys suggest, would be one of the weakest Republican nominees in modern history, one that an otherwise challenged Hillary Clinton could clobber.
In recent polls by Bloomberg Politics, The Wall Street Journal/NBC News and the New York Times/CBS News, she holds double-digit leads over Trump in a general election match-up. In the Bloomberg poll released on Wednesday, she beats him 54 percent to 36 percent.
This reflects his weaknesses more than her strengths, and raises serious doubt about claims he'd do well among independents, working-class Democrats and married women. In the four-day Bloomberg survey, completed Tuesday evening, 68 percent of the respondents had an unfavorable view of Trump against 29 percent who regard him favorably. That 39-point gap is huge. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is also regarded more negatively than positively -- but only by 9 percentage points, with 53 percent viewing her unfavorably and 44 percent favorably.
The case for a Trump victory in the fall is that he'd bring out new, alienated voters and would win over disaffected white Democrats and independents and others, including married women, who admire his strength. This, the theory goes, would offset losses among African-American and Latino voters.
In the Bloomberg poll, conducted by J. Ann Selzer, Clinton beats Trump among independents, a bloc where she has done poorly in the primaries, 54 percent to 34 percent. Mitt Romney, the Republican loser of the 2012 presidential election by four points, carried independents 50 percent to 45 percent.
As for Democrats, here's the problem: the working class, white so-called Reagan Democrats who supposedly are drawn to Trump mostly aren't Democrats anymore. And the working class isn't as white. Among all voters making less than $50,000 a year, Obama beat Romney, 60 percent to 38 percent. In the Bloomberg poll this week, Clinton's lead over Trump is wider among this group.
Trump's problems with women cross racial lines. Romney carried white women in 2012. In the Selzer survey, though, white women preferred Clinton to Trump by a margin of 50 percent to 40 percent.
The Trump brigade claims the New York billionaire's populist message would bring out new voters. The data don't agree. Among first-time participants in Republican primaries or caucuses, Trump predictably runs well ahead of Clinton. But the other Republican candidates still in the race do better. Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Clinton by much more among those first-time participants.
The Republican contests this year have produced a huge increase in voter turnout, much more than Democratic ones. Trump says that's because of him. Others, like Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who is active in the stop-Trump movement, say instead that it reflects the energy generated by a large initial field.
As for the states, a Siena College poll in New York State this month showed Clinton running more than 20 points ahead of Trump. A Pennsylvania poll gave her an eight-point advantage.
Occasionally, a presidential candidate does enlarge and even slightly alter the electorate. Ronald Reagan did it in 1980 as did Barack Obama in 2008. More often, promises to do that are the cries of candidates about to lose. Think of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972.
As of today, and if he's the nominee, Donald Trump is likely to join the Goldwater-McGovern ranks.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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