Presidential races

Anti-Trump forces seize on grim polls for Clinton match-up

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A raft of polling data showing Donald Trump running poorly in the general election has given new fodder to the movement of conservatives seeking to block the front-runner from the nomination.

New surveys show Hillary Clinton opening up a big lead over Trump nationally, as well as in the swing states that will play a critical role in determining who wins the White House.

{mosads}Trump’s conservative critics are sounding the alarm, pointing to the new data to make the case that the long-time front-runner is sure to deliver the White House to Democrats if Republicans make him their party’s standard bearer.

“Every piece of data shows that if Trump is the nominee, he will suffer a historic beat-down in the general election,” said Tim Miller, a Republican operative who works for a group committed to stopping Trump. “He’s been running for president for a year now and general election voters have already rendered their judgment.” 

Bolstering that case are poll findings that Trump is deeply unpopular outside of the narrow band of supporters who have so far carried him to the precipice of the GOP nomination. 

Trump has argued that he’s grown the party by attracting scores of new voters into the process — many of them independents or Democrats — who will expand the map for Republicans in the fall.

“We’re way up with millions of people. So what I say to the Republicans is embrace it. We will win the election easily,” Trump said earlier this month.

And Trump has said that he hasn’t turned his focus to attacking Clinton yet, but that when he does, it will be fierce. His supporters believe it’s too early to put stock in polls testing hypothetical match-ups between candidates.

But the data for Trump at this point in the cycle is grim.

There have been six national surveys released this week testing a Trump-Clinton match-up, and Clinton leads in every single one.

Clinton has an 11-point advantage over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. In a Bloomberg survey released this week, Clinton ran up an 18-point lead over Trump.

In all of those polls, Trump does worse against Clinton than the other two GOP contenders still in the race. Ted Cruz trails Clinton, but by a smaller margin, while John Kasich beats Clinton in every poll.

Meanwhile, a Monmouth University survey found that Clinton’s advantage over Trump extends to the swing states that will be critical in determining who wins the White House.

Clinton leads Trump 46 to 41 in the 10 states where the margin of victory for the winning candidate in 2012 was less than 7 points, and she leads 49 to 36 in the 10 states from 2012 where the margin of victory was between 7 and 12 points.

Some Republicans believe if Trump is the nominee, the blast radius will extend beyond those battleground states. For instance, a survey out of Utah released this week found a Trump nomination would hand that state over to Democrats for the first time in more than 50 years.

“He’ll get destroyed in the general election,” said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney. “Voters in remaining states that have not cast ballots yet should look at that and factor it into their decisions.”

Many poll watchers dismiss the importance of hypothetical match-ups at this point in the race, arguing that a candidate’s net favorability rating is a more important metric this early in the cycle.

But here too, Trump does poorly among likely general election voters, neutralizing a weakness of Clinton’s that Republicans had hoped to exploit.

A Fox News survey released this week is indicative of where the two front-runners stand.

Clinton is underwater on favorability, with only 39 percent having a positive view of her, against 58 percent who view her negatively. But Trump is doing worse, posting a 31-65 split.

In the Bloomberg survey, Trump’s negative rating has spiked 13 points since November and hit a new high of 68 percent among likely general election voters.

David Winston, who served as Newt Gingrich’s pollster in 2012 and is not a part of the anti-Trump movement, says the sum total paints a bleak picture for the GOP front-runner’s general election hopes.

“The current equilibrium has him trailing by double-digits,” Winston said. “An equilibrium can be changed, but it’s not easy to do, and he’s trying to do it with this albatross of a terribly negative favorability rating hanging around his neck.”

Still, Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray points out that Trump had a similarly dismal favorability rating when he launched his bid for the Republican nomination. 

“It would be wise to remember that Republican voters did a virtual 180 degree flip from having negative to positive views after he launched his campaign,” Murray said.

Trump’s supporters point to his massive rallies as evidence that there is considerable grassroots energy around his campaign that will carry over into the general election.

“In December of 1979, a Gallup poll showed incumbent President Jimmy Carter would defeat challenger Ronald Reagan 60 to 33,” said former Reagan administration official Jeffrey Lord, who supports Trump for president. “In other words, things can change.”

But for now, the anti-Trump contingent believes it has a potent new weapon to make its case against the front-runner. It’s an argument that cuts to the core of Trump’s appeal.

“What will he do if he doesn’t have polls to wave around at his rallies?” Williams, the former Romney staffer, asked.

Critics say there’s no evidence to support the notion that Trump will reach so-called “Reagan Democrats” in a general election. The more likely scenario, they say, is that he gets routed in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

And rather than expanding the GOP coalition, they say moderate members of the party will stay home or vote for a third-party candidate instead. The Monmouth survey found Trump only getting support from 73 percent of Republicans in the match-up with Clinton, who took 89 percent support from Democrats.

One tweet that made the rounds among Trump’s critics on social media on this week cited a new Wall Street Journal survey that found Trump holding a negative favorability rating of 70 percent among women, 72 percent among millennials, 83 percent among blacks and 77 percent among Hispanics.

Those are the kind of figures that Trump’s critics plan to present to Republican delegates if there’s a contested convention in July.

“This will be argued to the delegates who I think can be swayed by a political argument about electability,” said Miller.

Lord, the Trump supporter and former Reagan official, shot back: “They’re wrong. We’ve seen their ideas of who is electable, and it’s Mitt Romney, John McCain and Bob Dole. You can go all the way down the line. They’re in no position to lecture us on who is electable.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton John McCain Ted Cruz

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