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Can Donald Trump or Ted Cruz Beat Hillary Clinton? A New National Poll May Surprise You

Trump is the Titanic. Ted Cruz is the Lifeboat.

RCP trump is screwed

There’s a new Bloomberg national poll out, and if you ever had any illusions about the well-documented evidence that Donald Trump would be a Hindenburg-sized disaster as a general election candidate against Hillary Clinton, this should lay those doubts to rest. Trump trails Hillary by 18 points, 54-36, and the news gets worse from there.

Start with the topline. Trump trails Hillary 54-36, and even if that’s a bit of an outlier, it is consistent with a long track record of Trump trailing Hillary badly, including by double digits in 5 of the last 7 national polls; the RCP polling average now has Trump down 50.4 to 39.0, a result that would lose him more than 40 states and have catastrophic down-ticket results for Republicans in the Senate and House. We forget what a wipeout that big looks like: in the past 40 years, nobody but Walter Mondale in 1984 has lost a presidential election by as much as 10 points (we’re so far removed from that, we tend to think of John McCain’s 7-point loss to Barack Obama in 2008 as a landslide). And before you object that Reagan trailed by more than that in 1980, read this. Even at his low ebb, in a deep-blue-state poll taken in New Jersey just before his New Hamphsire primary revival, Reagan was viewed unfavorably by only 44% of voters.

Diving into the questions, we see the problem. Voters are not happy with Hillary Clinton, whose favorable/unfavorable rating is 44/53, a full 9 points underwater and steadily sagging since late 2014, and 35% have a “very unfavorable” view of Hillary – more than a third of the electorate basically hates her and will not be talked out of that view. Ted Cruz is in a similar boat in this poll: 32-55 (-23), with 32% viewing him very unfavorably. But Trump is in a completely different universe: his favorable rating is 29/68, meaning that he’s almost 40 points underwater. And his “very unfavorable” rating is 53% – a majority of the voters have essentially cast-in-stone disliking of Trump. Is it early? Sure, in some ways – but we’re less than 7 months from Election Day, closer than we are to when Trump first seized the national primary poll lead last summer, and by now everyone has a strong opinion about Trump. The cake is baked.

trump keeps losing

Even while Trump leads Cruz among Republican voters in this poll (40-31, and 48-44 head to head), they give responses that suggest why Trump would do so badly with general election voters:

Has the better temperament to be president? Cruz 63, Trump 27
Embodies traditional moral values? Cruz 64, Trump 20
Is the most honest and trustworthy? Cruz 45, Trump 36
Has the most appropriate life experience to be president? Cruz 47, Trump 43

Yeah, let’s go with the guy who our own voters think is temperamentally unsuited to the job, has no morals, is not honest or trustworthy, and lacks the relevant experience. That will end well.

The poll is not all good news for Cruz. He, too, trails Hillary pretty badly (not as badly as Trump), 51-42, part of a general trend of him falling behind Hillary after running neck and neck with her or better since December in head to head polling. That is discouraging, and doubtless in part a result of the reek that Trump spreads to anyone around him, but not necessarily incurable, as Cruz is less well-known with the public than Trump. And Cruz at least would hold the GOP base together rather than blast it into fragments.

Trump’s weakness as a candidate has been in plain sight even in the primaries. Mitt Romney, the last Northeastern business tycoon to win the nomination while using tough talk on immigration to paper over his moderate record on most other issues (although Trump makes Romney look like Barry Goldwater in terms of ideological purity), struggled to put away his opponents in 2012, but by this point in the primaries, Romney was taking off and ready to put the race away:

Trump Behind Romney

Even excluding Virginia given that some of Romney’s chief competitors failed to make the ballot, a comparison of the states that have voted thus far and voted before the 2012 race was decided shows Romney running stronger than Trump in most of them outside a few Deep South states:

Trump Behind Romney List

And the saddest part? Respondents in the Bloomberg poll picked Trump over Cruz by a whopping 66-26 margin on the question of “Has the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton?” Even as poll after poll after poll confirms what any moderately sentient observer of American politics knows – that Trump would be a catastrophe in November – ordinary voters seem regularly to be under the impression that other voters like Trump a lot, so he must be a strong general election candidate. Trump is running on electability, while not having it, and not having principles, either. It seems at times as if the voters need to see Trump destroyed by Hillary before they will believe it. It is the job of Cruz, and of everyone who opposes Hillary’s election to the Presidency, to spread the word that this is nonsense, before it’s too late for us to turn back from the brink. A vote for Donald Trump in the primary is a vote for Hillary Clinton.

The Governor of Ohio was also discussed in this poll.

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