Amid Democratic infighting, polls are improving for Trump

Donald Trump appears to be making rapid progress in unifying Republican voters behind his presidential bid even as Democratic discord between backers of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders reaches new highs.

An NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll released Tuesday morning showed Trump and Clinton performing at exactly the same level within their respective parties. Each commanded 87 percent support.

{mosads}The poll also suggested that hopes among Democrats of an easy win over Trump are misplaced. Tuesday’s poll had Clinton with an edge of just 3 points in a hypothetical match-up: The former secretary of State led Trump 48 percent to 45 percent.

The numbers track close to polls near this point in the 2012 presidential election.

A Gallup poll conducted in March 2012, for example, saw President Obama winning the allegiance of the same proportion of Democrats as Clinton is now: 87 percent.

Trump, for his part, may be outperforming Mitt Romney, who took 84 percent support among Republicans in the March 2012 poll.

To be sure, it’s early. Polling numbers at this point in an election cycle can be significantly out of line with the results in November. 

But there are warning signs for Clinton, nonetheless. 

While Romney, the Bush family and a few GOP officeholders are keeping a distance from Trump, the real estate mogul does not appear to have a huge disadvantage in seeking to unify Republican voters. That means Clinton will need to stoke enthusiasm among all parts of the Democratic base if she becomes the nominee.

The potential for enmity between the Clinton and Sanders camps intensified Tuesday amid recriminations over the chaotic Nevada Democratic convention three days before. The back-and-forth left Sanders at odds with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a Clinton endorser, among others. 

A Sanders statement Tuesday, in response to criticism of his supporters’ behavior in Nevada, blasted some of those charges as “nonsense.” But the Vermont senator made a broader argument, asserting that the party needs to either embrace “people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change” or “choose to maintain its status quo structure [and] remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions.” 

Reid, in turn, called the Sanders comments “silly.”

The candidate’s clear shot at Clinton as part of the “status quo,” the tit-for-tat with Reid and the rumpus in Nevada are all fueling fears among Democrats.

They worry that if the ill feeling between the candidates’ supporters persists until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July — or beyond — it could seriously hurt the party’s chances in November.

“Every week, every news cycle, every tweet that goes by where the focus is not on the GOP presumptive nominee is a day lost in this race to seize the most advantageous ground to wage the general election,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. 

The situation within the two parties is precisely the opposite of what many pundits had predicted. 

Trump’s victory in his party’s primary battle was said to throw the GOP into disarray, while Clinton — who has been the strong favorite throughout the Democratic race — might have expected the party to have fallen in line behind her by now. 

Clinton has performed strongly with some pillars of the Democratic coalition during the primary process, most notably African-Americans. But Sanders has repeatedly bested her among young voters, and there is a broader fear, even among some allies, that her candidacy fails to spark real excitement. 

Democrats can take some comfort from the fact that the electoral map is more comfortable ground for them than for Republicans these days. But Clinton, who has been center stage in national politics for a generation, is running in a year when pro-insurgent sentiment is strong.

Some experts believe Clinton’s position might improve once she becomes the presumptive nominee of her party, something Trump has already accomplished.

“Trump might be getting something of a ‘unity bonus’ that Clinton might yet realize after Sanders leaves the race, whenever that is,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Many Democrats in Washington would like to hasten that day, judging from statements on Tuesday. 

Still, Clinton can take heart from the fact that some previous cycles have thrown up primary-season predictions of disunity that did not ultimately come true. 

In August 2008, only 47 percent of Clinton supporters said they were sure to vote for the party’s presumptive nominee, Barack Obama. That fall, Obama won the biggest Democratic victory since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. 

Alexander Bolton contributed.

Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Harry Reid Hillary Clinton
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