It's hard to overstate how many different ways we have evidence staring us in the face that Marco Rubio is a strong general election candidate and Donald Trump a disastrous one, but here's another. The Washington Post and Univision have a joint poll out this morning of 1,200 Hispanic registered voters nationwide, 52% of them American-born and 24% Mexican-born. For the optimist, the good news is that Hispanic voters - by far and away the nation's fastest-growing voter segment even if the borders were sealed tomorrow and no new citizenships granted - are open-minded enough to separate Trump from the rest of the GOP and to have more favorable opinions of other Republicans. For the pessimist, if Trump becomes the nominee, we will have handed the Democrats the single electoral weapon they desire above all others: a long-term cementing of Hispanic voters to their party in numbers approaching that of black voters. Combined with Trump driving out of the party its pro-lifers, small-government and Constitutional conservatives, libertarians, supply-siders, neoconservatives, and free traders, what's left would be a very small and angry tent.
The Horse Race
But let's have the good news first! Hispanic voters aren't satisfied with the direction of the country, 54-33 (-22), a sign of dissatisfaction that could be exploited in this campaign if the GOP nominates a Republican; that's 43-46 (-3) even among Hispanic Democrats. Hispanics as a whole will break for the Democrats - 51% lean that way right now compared to 14% leaning Republican (-27), but almost a third (32%) are undecided, a bloc that could make a very big difference, especially since these are registered voters and shifts in enthusiasm could affect turnout. "Voting for a candidate willing to continue Obama's policies" polls at just 34-30 (+4).
Who can capitalize on this? Rubio. He polls at 44-37 (+8) favorable, with 16-21% (-5) strongly favorable vs strongly unfavorable (a useful metric mostly because these are the folks who are beyond persuasion). Cruz is underwater, 39-44 (-5), and 12-29 (-17) with the "very" fav/unfav. 18% are still undecided on Rubio, 17% on Cruz. By contrast, Carson was not deemed worth polling, and while Kasich polled decently at 27-21 (+6) and 9-10 (-1) with the very fav/unfav, a majority (52%) have no opinion about him, fittingly for a guy at 8.3% of the vote so far with no resources and not competing in most of the next 18 states. But Trump? Hold on to your hat: Trump's favorables with Hispanics are 16-80 (-64), and his very favorable/very unfavorable is 8-72 (-64). In other words, almost 3/4 of Hispanics have already formed a strongly negative view of Trump. Only 3% are undecided. Hispanics are not the only voting bloc that would see a Trump nomination as a gigantic middle finger aimed at them, but they're probably atop the list.
Against Hillary, Rubio runs best, or rather least-worst, 31-61 (-30) with 8% undecided; Cruz runs 27-65 (-38), also with 8% undecided; Kasich runs 23-66 (-43) with 10% undecided. Trump predictably gets annihilated 16-73 (-57), although the 10% undecided figure does speak to Hillary's vulnerability - nearly everybody who doesn't hate Trump is persuadable. Unfortunately for Trump, as is true of the general electorate, a solid majority already hates Trump.
Against Sanders, Rubio is also most competitive, in fact even moreso than against Hillary, 33-57 (-24) with 10% undecided; Cruz runs 28-61 (-33), with 12% undecided; Kasich runs 22-59 (-37) with a full 19% undecided. Trump again gets slaughtered 16-72 (-56), with 12% undecided.
Hillary and Bernie both have strong favorables among Hispanics, 67-30 (+37) for Hillary and 60-23 (+37) for Bernie, with a lot more undecideds regarding Sanders. So take notice: only Rubio runs better against Hillary than her own approval rating would suggest, while any of the others would add votes against the GOP. Against Sanders, Rubio runs well ahead of that bar, although Cruz is also ahead and Kasich even; Trump is still far behind, making enemies hand over fist.
What about the primary? Among Hispanic Republicans (who made up only 240 of the 1200 respondents, so take that for what it's worth), Rubio leads by 12, 34-22-22 with Trump and Cruz tied for second; 15% are undecided, with 4% preferring Ben Carson, and John Kasich dead last at 3%. Combine first and second choices, and Rubio walks off with it, 53% to 38 for Cruz, 28 for Trump, 11 for Kasich and 8 for Carson. Trump does have some Hispanic fans within this party, they're just a tiny, outnumbered minority in their demographic at large.
Hispanics as a group remain liberal-leaning, but by no means monolithically so except on immigration. The poll found - all else being equal - a 54-35 preference for keeping Obamacare, 71-21 for a $15 minimum wage (which also polls unfortunately well among white voters, especially Trump supporters), and 82-11 for a path to citizenship. But only 17% named immigration as their top voting issue, compared to 33% who said jobs or the economy.
Trump is Trump
Trump's unpopularity with Hispanics is broad, deep, and decided. By 74-23 (+51), poll respondents found his views of immigration "offensive to you," with only 2% undecided. 91% said they had heard some or a lot about Trump's views of Mexican immigrants; 73% said "a lot." But at the same time, 64% attributed those views to Trump rather than the party as a whole (19% blamed the GOP, and another 10% said "both Trump and other Republicans). 7% were not sure. In other words, these may be voters who on balance are not with us, but most are not yet personally offended and alienated from the Republican Party. Nominate Trump, and that separation disappears, and the bridge burns. And Hillary cackles, and cackles, and cackles all the way to the bank.