But I don't agree with everything that was written here. For instance, I don't share Tom's impulse to single out Bernie Sanders as unelectable. I see Tom's point, and the email to Josh Marshall that's quoted by Tom describes what I've been fearing: that if likely GOP lines of attack are deployed against Sanders, many people who are now open to him will turn firmly against him. Also, when you include super PAC money deployed against him, he'll be overwhelmingly outspent. And many members of the Democratic Establishment will probably abandon him, dishonorably, the way they abandoned Ned Lamont. So, yes, he'd have serious trouble in a general election.
But so would everyone else who's won a primary or caucus this year. In fact, the four primary/caucus winners all seem unelectable to me. And the billionaire who wants to take advantage of the chaos in this race, Mike Bloomberg, seems unelectable as well. I don't know what happens when you have a general election with two (or maybe three) unelectable candidates. I think we're going to find out.
I don't have to explain why Donald Trump seems unelectable. Last month, Gallup registered a 60% unfavorable rating from Trump among all voters, compared to a 33% favorable rating. That's awful -- but Hillary's Clinton's unfavorable rating in the same poll is 52%, worse than the 45% registered by the woebegone Jeb Bush. And as I noted last week, a USA Today poll depicts Trump and Clinton as equally "scary" to voters:
... for Trump, 38% of likely voters would be scared if the real-estate mogul won the GOP nomination -- including not only 62% of Democrats but also 17% of Republicans. A third of independents, 33%, feel that way.Also, both inspire bad feelings overall:
... And for Clinton, a former secretary of State, 33% would be scared -- including 60% of Republicans and also 8% of Democrats. Just over a third of independents, 35%, agree.
For Trump, a majority of likely voters, 56%, have a negative response to his prospective nomination, including 18% who would be dissatisfied. Just under four in 10 have a positive reaction: 15% enthusiastic and 24% satisfied.The GOP and the mainstream media agree that Hillary Clinton is an ugly old lying monster, a fairytale evil witch. Clinton hasn't figured out a way to counteract that message. Beyond that, she's just the sort of candidate who loses presidential elections -- Walter Mondale in 1984 or Bob Dole in 1996, a former primary-season loser who gets the nomination on the basis of being the next in line, but who still reeks of defeat and datedness. There's no way she'd win against a reasonably strong traditional Republican candidate.
Clinton fares only a bit better: 54% have a negative response to her nomination, including 21% who would be dissatisfied. Just over four in 10 have a positive reaction: 16% enthusiastic and 26% satisfied.
Fortunately for her, if she's the nominee (as now seems almost certain), there's an excellent chance that she'll run against either Trump or Ted Cruz. I think Cruz could theoretically win a general election, but if he's the nominee, he's going to run a failed campaign, because he has a failed theory of what it takes to win.
You see, he'd be the first GOP presidential nominee who grew up not as a producer of bamboozling Fox/talk radio talking points, but as a consumer of them -- he actually believes the BS. One line in particular that he believes is that Republicans win elections when they run as True Conservatives. We've seen this disproved in recent Senate campaigns -- Todd Akin got trounced after we heard him say things that would have been cheered on talk radio, while wingnuts such as Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner hid their extremism under a bushel and won. But Cruz simply won't tack to the center if he's the nominee. He doesn't think he has to. Therefore, he'll be beatable.
So what happens when two unelectable candidates compete? I think the Democrats' recent strength in the Electoral College will kick in at that point, but only because a weak Democratic nominee will draw a weak Republican opponent. Even a moderately popular, not terribly off-putting Republican opponent could win this year. But it looks as if Republicans probably won't luck out.
If they do -- if Marco Rubio wins the nomination -- I think the GOP will win handily. I respectfully disagree with Yastreblyansky:
When pandits say Marco Rubio is electable, I think they mostly mean he's a revolting little prig but nice-looking, and with a manner less directly offensive than Cruz's: "I don't like him but I bet everybody else does" the way Mrs. Cleaver thinks Eddie Haskell is really a nice boy. In fact they are merely making the mistake of thinking other people are even stupider than they are, which is not necessarily the case.Stupider? Not necessarily. Less focused on policy specifics and more focused on affect? Absolutely. That's how a lot of people vote -- Marco Rubio is "mainstream" because the way he speaks feels mainstream to people who don't think a lot about politics. (That's also how a lot of journalists think -- and would it be really be arrogant of me to assume they're stupid?) And yet beyond that he's talking the way the white voters who still dominate our elections think: taxes are too high, the have-nots are too cosseted, our enemies think we're too lily-livered. He's too canned, but he knows where heartland white voters' sweet spot is.
Rubio has a pitchfork-shaker's positions, but he speaks as if he'd be shocked to find an angry mob following in his wake. If he has a genius, it's for the crafting of talking points that contain both dog whistles and wiggle room; if you don't like these convictions, wait till fall and he'll have others.
Beyond that, he's the slightly hip bro dad the mainstream media craves. As a result, he'll never get bad press for more than a few days. (Notice how he's bounced back from the robot moment.)
So he can win -- but I don't see him winning the nomination. One of two unelectable Republicans will get it instead, and then lose to one of two unelectable Democrats.