Not only is this the worst poll of the early general election campaign for Trump so far (and a poll of likely voters at that), it’s bad enough that if things still look this way three weeks from now, you may actually see a serious “dump Trump” move in Cleveland.
This is the fourth national poll in a row where he’s below 40 percent, pushing him down to an overall average of 38.6 — tied for his lowest mark since August 15, 2015. The big caveat, right up front: The poll was conducted from June 10-13, meaning that reaction to the Orlando attack isn’t fully incorporated. It may take a week to have a decent sense of whether Trump’s getting a bounce from that. And it had better be some bounce:
Most national polls in late May and early June showed a closer race, but they were taken before criticism intensified of Trump’s charge that a U.S. judge overseeing fraud cases against Trump University is biased because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. Fifty-five percent of likely voters in the new poll said they were very bothered by those comments.
“Clinton has a number of advantages in this poll, in addition to her lead,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “Her supporters are more enthusiastic than Trump’s and more voters overall see her becoming a more appealing candidate than say that for Trump.”…
Trump’s suggestions that Obama hasn’t taken forceful enough action to stop domestic terrorism because he sides with Muslims landed with a thud for the majority of Americans, with 61 percent disagreeing with the suggestion. A strong majority—69 percent—also disagree that law enforcement agencies should increase surveillance of all American Muslims, even if it conflicts with civil liberties.
Fully 55 percent, a solid majority, already say they could never vote for Trump. Forty-three percent say so of Hillary, still a lot but in line with what you’d expect from pure partisan biases. Among women, the number who say they could never vote for Trump is … 63 percent. There is reason to think Trump’s numbers will rise after Orlando, as more said they’d trust him to handle an attack like this one as president and more said he’d do better than Hillary combating threats at home and abroad. (Bloomberg also found that Obama’s job approval dropped after the massacre.) But Trump’s margins on those questions weren’t huge, four points in the first case and five points in the second, and Obama’s job approval was still at 51 percent even after the decline. Worse still, when Bernie Sanders supporters were polled, they split 55 percent for Hillary, 22 for Trump, and 11 for Gary Johnson. Hillary will consolidate most of those holdouts in time, which will further pad her overall numbers. Even among Trump’s strongest group, white men, his lead is a relatively modest 50/33. Romney won that demographic 62/35.
Click here and scroll down through the crosstabs and you’ll find a list of attacks on each candidate showing how effective each was. For Hillary, the strongest attack is her getting paid big bucks for speeches to Wall Street banks, with 50 percent claiming it bothers them “a lot.” The public, quite rightly, is worried that the Clintons are influence peddlers. For Trump, there are no less than three attacks that bother more than 50 percent “a lot”: His proposed Muslim ban (51), his comments about the judge in the Trump U case (55), and his comments about women like Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Heidi Cruz, and others, which reached 62 percent. That’s right in Hillary’s wheelhouse. In fact, I think Amanda Carpenter’s right about her broader strategy in the first few weeks of the general election. Clinton’s spent less time attacking Trump as a conservative “extremist,” which is usually S.O.P. in the Democratic campaign playbook but far-fetched this year given his economic policies, and more painting him as a full-spectrum crank. That started last week when she attacked him as unfit to control America’s nuclear arsenal and it continued today, as you’ll see below, with her making hay of what Trump said yesterday about Obama’s rhetorical hesitations towards Islam.
It’s probably her best bet strategically, especially given how unpopular she is. If the election is a straight-up “Republican or Democrat?” election, the GOP probably wins thanks to public fatigue with liberal government. If it’s an “anti-establishment or establishment?” election, the GOP wins easily. If it’s a “who do you like more?” election, the GOP might well win that too. Trump’s less popular than Clinton but not by much, but he has charisma to spare while she, let us politely say, does not. He might be able to win some swing voters over in a personality contest. But if it’s a “who might push the button on a whim?” election, then it’s advantage: Hillary. The more the public is sold on the idea that he’s a loose cannon, the less her manifest faults will bother them. That’s what she’s after in the clip below, and that’s why the judge/sexism attacks work. They reinforce the idea that Trump can’t control himself to the degree that other politicians routinely do.
And yes, of course she’s exploiting the fact that Republicans are already running scared from Trump:
Sen Corker on Trump: "It wasn't the type of speech one would expect" from potential president. Says he's "discouraged" by the campaign.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) June 14, 2016
Ryan declines to answer question on Trump's assertion that Obama is complicit w Islamic terrorism. Says he won't comment on day to day Trump
— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) June 14, 2016
"We don't have a nominee" Sen Alexander says in response to question on Trump. Informed he's the presumptive nominee: "That's what you say."
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) June 14, 2016
“Saying nothing would have been better,” groused one RNC member about Trump’s speech yesterday. “Every Senate candidate will be forced to answer for Trump’s bizarre response. … His lack of empathy is jarring.” We’ll see. Obama in schoolmarm mode will at least help Trump further consolidate the right. Exit question via Jake Tapper: If Obama thought Hillary was doing a good job of taking the fight to Trump, why would he step on her speech today by delivering his own remarks aimed at Trump at around the same time?