May 16, 2016
Assuming things stay as they are and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump actually are the main choices presented to the American public this fall, we should expect an unusual amount of volatility in potential results.
Winning candidates have positive favorability numbers on Election Day. This one won’t. You can argue another six months of campaigning will make Trump and Hillary even less popular. Expecting either to turn around their current standing is fanciful.
So we’re on track to elect someone that at least 55%, if not 65% to 70% of the country actively dislikes. It’s not just mild distaste. Slightly over 1/2 of Americans view Trump very unfavorably. Hillary’s Contempt Index is in the 40s.
You already knew this. You likely are very aware Bernie Sanders polls the best of the three, whether you’re looking at general election matchups or favorability. Think of how this would have sounded a year ago.
This is very consistent from survey to survey. Some national polls show Hillary leading Trump by a decent margin. Others have it very close. We’ve seen swing state polling from Quinnipiac that has Trump very competitive. Regardless, Sanders is always the most popular of the three.
Because of temperament, trustworthiness, whatever, you have voters far to Bernie’s right who find him more appealing/less loathsome than Trump. This isn’t normal.
The candidate to the ideological extreme is virtually never more popular with the wider audience. If they can’t win over their own party, why would they do better with more centrist voters?
The same is true on the GOP side. If Marco Rubio were taken out of cold storage, he’d poll better than Trump against Hillary. Yet, Rubio is to Trump’s right. Ted Cruz was polling even with Trump or slightly better, despite being far to his right and also carrying the baggage of being Ted Cruz.
Normally, the candidates closer to the middle are better positioned for November. This puts both Clinton and Trump in a tough spot. They are fighting over undecided moderates who hate both of them as well as needing to win over either conservatives or progressives who might stay at home.
The best of candidates would find it hard to move to the center and a wing at the same time. How are the two most hated major party candidates in at least several decades going to pull this off?
That sort of tightrope act requires a candidate who is trusted by voters. Oops. Moving around on issues is easier with a unified party and plenty of partisan voters who will look the other way as needed. Uh…
It appears conservatives will not successfully locate a victim willing to run as a third party option. Michael Bloomberg is staying on the sidelines. While Gary Johnson may exceed any Libertarian Party expectation, he’s not going to win the presidency.
Barring timely action by the FBI, either Hillary or Trump will win. Historical precedents indicate neither can. Trump has mortally offended well more than half of the electorate and Clinton is an unpopular candidate trying to earn a third term for her party at a time most Americans think the county is on the wrong track.
Despite both candidates having universal name recognition and voters having spent a minimum of several months evaluating them (it’s not like less informed voters have anywhere to hide), a far larger than normal amount of voters are undecided.
That number is growing, not shrinking as it normally would as we get closer to the finish line. Both candidates lack the reservoir of commitment that provides a strong floor. If you measure a true Trumpist as someone who views him very favorably, it’s less than 15% of the country.
For the decisive 20-25% of Americans who can’t stand either, it’s not safe to count them as firmly in either column until their vote is cast. They may lean one way now and another later. They may decide to skip them both.
The polls will go one way, they’ll go another. It already appears many of the key down ballot races will take time to sort out. Do they make voters more likely to turn out? Or does distaste over the top of the ticket keep people from showing up to vote for a senator?
Either way, we’re in uncharted territory with two impossibly unpopular choices. Someone has to win, someone will win, somehow. But it will get uglier and more uncomfortable from here out. Neither has any hope of getting a majority to vote for them.
Getting a majority to vote against the other choice though….
However nasty you thought this was going to get, multiply by 10.