The most recent round of polling illustrates the emerging fundamentals. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who has been underscoring the importance of turning out the “rising American electorate,” released polling this month showing Clinton trailing Trump in Ohio, and only leading him by one point in Colorado and by two points in Florida. Right now, Greenberg concluded, core elements of the party’s base are not enthused to vote in the upcoming presidential election. With a more mainstream Republican tested, it’s likely Clinton would be trailing in all those battlegrounds. The Marquette Law School poll, the gold standard of polling in the Democratic-friendly Badger State, showed Clinton trailing Marco Rubio by a point, 48 to 47 percent. Fox’s New Hampshire polling showed Clinton in a dead heat against most opponents, but trailing Rubio by seven points and Jeb Bush/John Kasich by three.
Nationally, Clinton badly trails most GOP rivals in the latest Quinnipiac and Fox polls. (She trails Rubio by five in Quinnipiac’s national survey and eight in the FOX poll.) In this month’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, she’s tied with Ben Carson and only narrowly leads Rubio and Bush. This, despite the disproportionate attention to the GOP field’s chaos, from Trump’s outrageous statements to the field’s rightward march on immigration. If Democrats are content to dismiss the polling trends as insignificant, they’re whistling past the political graveyard.
Even though Obama’s not on the ballot again, his presence will dominate the trajectory of the 2016 election. If he continues to use his final two years in office to burnish a progressive legacy even when his views run against the desires of the public, Clinton will bear the brunt of the backlash. The president’s base-first strategy has polarized the country to such a degree that it’s hard to see any of his detractors even considering voting for a Democrat in the next presidential election.