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2016 Elections

Obama Would Thump Trump. Romney Would Conquer Clinton.

Hypothetical matchups in a Bloomberg poll expose the weakness of both candidates.

It’s often said that the only candidates who could lose to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here’s one indication that it’s more than a wry joke.

The latest Bloomberg Politics national poll asked voters who they’d support in hypothetical matchups between Trump and President Barack Obama, and between Clinton and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

The result: Obama would clobber Trump and Romney would trounce Clinton.

Obama can’t run for a third term, 1 but if he could he’d beat Trump by 12 percentage points, 53 percent to 41 percent, according to the poll. Romney would defeat Clinton by 10 percentage points.

QuickTake Perils of Polling

The survey, conducted Friday night through Sunday, showed Clinton leading Trump by three percentage points. Obama was judged favorably by 54 percent of respondents, an approval rating that easily beat Clinton’s (46 percent) or Trump’s (41 percent). The president couldn’t, however, match the 58-percent approval rating of his wife, Michelle.

"In an election about change, voters would like to change the candidates," said Ann Selzer, the Des Moines pollster who conducts the survey for Bloomberg Politics. "In a heartbeat, the nation would elect Barack Obama all over again if he were able to take on Trump. Romney looks like the right choice against Hillary Clinton."

If Trump loses, the poll result fortifies Republican contentions that a better and more qualified candidate could have won. That’s likely to make it easier for congressional Republicans to oppose most everything a President Clinton would try.

Similarly, a victory by Trump would not give him anything close to a governing mandate in the eyes of Democrats, who would regard it as a referendum on Clinton’s personal weaknesses rather than a rejection of policies comparable to the ones Obama championed.

The yearning for other candidates shows up among various voting groups in the poll. For example, it shows that 50 percent of voters under 35 years old favor Clinton, giving her an advantage among those voters of 15 percentage points. But in the hypothetical contest, Obama would win the same group of young voters by 35 percentage points. Among nonwhites, Obama runs 17 percentage points further ahead of the Republican nominee than she does.

On the Republican side, Clinton beat Trump in the survey among those with a college degree, 52 percent to 37 percent. But it showed her losing those voters to Romney, 50 percent to 43 percent. Romney even runs slightly ahead of her among women.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

  1. "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once..." --22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

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