Get ready. The pearls are going to get sweaty.
The clutching over every perceived misstep that Hillary Clinton makes will be non-stop as every gaffe is escalated into a five-alarm fire — and for good reason. Democrats could easily blow this. And, even more importantly, the press will do everything it can to make it seem as it Trump really has a shot at becoming the first orange president.
Sure, “Dangerous Donald” isn’t a great nickname. But does that compare to every living Republican president and the party’s last presidential nominee sitting out an election? Does it compare to the Republican Speaker of the House trying to set terms with the party’s nominee before endorsing him? Does it compare to the most unpopular presidential nominee in American history?
Here you’ll say, “Well, Hillary isn’t all that popular either.”
No. Stop that.
It’s not comparable — just as a primary voting block is barely comparable to the over 100 million Americans who will show up in November. The GOP primary is bachelor party. The general election is huge wedding where nearly every grandma in America is invited and shows up.
What sells to a plurality of the GOP primary electorate is not necessarily compatible with the general-election marketplace. It’s not that the rest of the country has yet to be introduced to Trump the candidate; it’s that they watched the primary in horror, and now they can’t stand him.
The numbers are bleak, and given Trump’s 100 percent name ID and decades of cultural ubiquity, they are unlikely to change dramatically. You can’t move the polls without shifting the underlying perceptions, and the Trump brand is worse than Alpo. Hillary Clinton is far from beloved, to be sure, but the comparison obscures the chasm. Popularity numbers for each are underwater, and both have higher “very unfavorable” ratings than any other nominee on record. But if you think this is just a sign of an increasingly polarized era, a recent AP-Gfk survey is instructive. Hillary clocks in at minus-15 net favorability, with 38 percent reporting a “very unfavorable” view. Abysmal numbers, but downright golden next to Trump’s minus-43, with a whopping 56 percent of all adults viewing him very unfavorably. When more than half the country loathes you, you’re going to have a tough time making it up in volume.
Hillary’s numbers are the result of decades of being the target of partisan attacks and bearing the weight of being the through-line of a not always stellar three-decades of Democratic politics. Trump’s unpopularity comes from being bigoted, misogynistic fortunate son who lies about compliments from Vladimir Putin.
We need to start getting clear that Trump winning the GOP nomination wasn’t a shock that was unpredictable. Everyone should have seen this coming, and not just because the billion dollar baby led in the primary polls from the moment he called Mexicans “rapists” for all but a day.
Trump’s diehards actually didn’t care if he shot someone on 5th Avenue but there are a group of voters who — college-educated Republicans, especially women.
To win, Trump needs to do vastly better with minority voters or better with white voters than Mitt Romney, who did better with that pasty cohort than any Republican since George H.W. Bush. He’s doing worse with both.
You shouldn’t underestimate how hard it would be to reverse this. You should also not underestimate how badly the press needs him to do this. And they already have their story: The chances of Trump getting more unpopular are minimal as Republicans realize he’s all that stands between them and the brutal cocktail of sanctifying Obama’s legacy by electing another Clinton. And the chances of this race tightening, especially if the Democratic primary gets even uglier, are about 100 percent. And they’re going to pretend the email thing is real, whether it is or not.
Trump also has flexibility, flare and unpredictability no other Republican candidate will ever have again. But, as #NeverTrump Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens asked, ““If the guy is such a marketing genius, why is it he’s the most unpopular political figure in modern American history?”
Regardless, Democrats are the clear favorite in November with some hopes of a down-ballot disaster, though the prospects of this aren’t as strong as they would be if we were facing a true ideologue like Ted Cruz.
Losing is unthinkable and winning the presidency and the Senate could genuinely reshape America just through the Supreme Court. So volunteer, donate and resist the urge to buy into the never-ending cries of “Dems in Disarray” that won’t fade until Donald cries through his toner and sulks off into infamy.
[CC image credit: Gage Skidmore | Flickr]