Reince Priebus welcomed Donald Trump to the status of “presumptive GOP nominee” last night. Today’s CNN/ORC poll should welcome Trump and his fellow Republicans to the realities of a general election. Like almost every head-to-head poll this year, this latest survey shows Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, despite their nearly equal unfavorability. Unlike some of the other polls, this series shows an erosion in competitiveness for Trump even as he gained strength in the Republican primaries.
At the beginning of the year, when many did not think Trump would survive in an actual primary vote, he only trailed Hillary by one point, 48/47. Now, though …
This survey sample is composed of registered voters, not likely; it’s still a little far out for effective LV screens to be applied. It’s probable that LV surveys will tighten the margin a bit, but it won’t make up a 13-point gap, especially when the overall sample is split almost evenly between GOP/Dems and their leaners (406/405, respectively). Moreover, this is not much of an outlier, either. The current RCP average for national head-to-head polls in a Trump/Clinton general election is Clinton +6.5, and Rasmussen is the only pollster in three months to put Trump even slightly ahead or in a tie with Hillary.
Part of the problem for Trump and the GOP is his high unfavorables. Hillary manages to claw her way back to 49/49 among registered voters in this survey from 43/56 two months earlier, but Trump scores only 41/56, and 39/57 among all adults. But most of the problems with Trump can be seen in the demographics of the H2H question. Trump only ties Hillary among men at 47% each, but loses women by 26 points, 61/35. Hillary wins independents by double digits, 51/40, and wins in every geographical demo — including the South, 52/44. Hillary also holds onto 86% of Bernie Sanders’ voters, while Trump only holds onto 70% of non-Trump Republican voters, although that will almost certainly change over the next few weeks.
Worth noting: The CNN/ORC poll in May 2012 had Obama up by three over Romney, 49/46, not far off from the eventual 51/47 outcome. Romney only trailed among women by three points at that time, and led in the South 51/47. Trump’s starting off in a far deeper hole than Romney did against Obama.
These are the realities Republicans have to face with a Trump nomination, as I write in today’s column at The Week. Trump’s supporters claim that he will put all 50 states in play in November, a claim Newt Gingrich made earlier in the week. So far, though, there’s little evidence that he’ll do that in favor of the GOP — and maybe some evidence that he could expand the map for Hillary:
Take California and New York as examples. Four recent polls in the Golden State show Clinton with a huge lead over Trump by an average of over 25 points. In a new SurveyUSA poll released on Monday, Trump had a 34-point lead in the GOP primary, but trailed Clinton head-to-head by 22 points, 56/34. (Cruz did even worse at 57/29.) In New York, Clinton’s average lead over Trump is 21.2 points, and Trump scores no higher than 37 percent.
Mitt Romney got 36 percent of the New York vote in 2012’s general election, and 37 percent in California — about where Trump lands now. And Romney also got 62 percent of the vote in the 2012 primary in New York and thundered to a majority in each of the other four Acela Corridor Tuesday states, just as Trump did last week. All this demonstrates is that primary outcomes do not provide even a correlative relationship to general-election results.
What about other states? Republicans have had a solid lock on Arizona for decades, but neither of the two general-election polls taken in the past show Trump leading. One shows a tie, while another gives Clinton a seven-point edge. Polling in the critical state of Ohio shows Clinton with a narrow lead over Trump. In Florida, where Trump’s resort businesses provide him a high level of visibility, he’s trailing Clinton in three of four polls since the beginning of March. Far from Trump bagging blue states, he may get put into play swing states and red states that Republicans can ill afford to lose. …
None of this is to say that it’s impossible that Trump could flip the map. Outside events could affect the race, or he could change his campaign approach and outflank Clinton and the Democrats. At this point, however, Gingrich is making a speculative argument based on faith rather than evidence, and Republicans had better realize that if they want to compete in the fall with Trump at the top of the ticket.
We’ve learned two key things in this cycle. Never say never when it comes to Trump, but also pay attention to the evidence. We had data all along showing Trump’s strength in the Republican primary, but many chose to disbelieve it or assume it would dissipate. The worst mistake now would be to ignore evidence of weakness and not make the necessary changes to fix it before we end up with President Hillary next January. Fortunately, we have six months left to make those adjustments, but it’s clearly time to start making them.