The cycle of "outlier poll shows Trump within four!" is going to get pretty wearying in about ... okay, as of now.— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 4, 2016
And, well, he's right. Last night, Rachel Maddow previewed a new Public Policy Polling survey showing ... Trump within four:
And today there's this, from Quinnipiac:
- FLORIDA: Clinton 43 - Trump 42; Sanders 44 - Trump 42In this poll, Sanders doesn't even do particularly well against Trump in Ohio and Florida. Only in Pennsylvania are his numbers significantly better than Clinton's.
- OHIO: Clinton 39 - Trump 43; Sanders 43 - Trump 41
- PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 43 - Trump 42; Sanders 47 - Trump 41
In a race marked by wide gender, age and racial gaps, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running neck and neck in the key presidential Swing States of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont runs stronger against the likely Republican nominee, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today.
So are we underestimating Trump as a general election candidate?
I can't tell. PPP thinks one factor is that Republicans have unified first:
Clinton only up 4 in our new national poll because GOP has unified very quickly. Full poll out tomorrow morning https://t.co/11zSKw4UIn— PublicPolicyPolling (@ppppolls) May 10, 2016
As for the Quinnipiac polls, there's some skepticism about the demographics:
In all three Q polls released today the sample is 3-4 points more white than the 2012 electorate, which is ludicrous.— Dana Houle (@DanaHoule) May 10, 2016
I haven't examined this thoroughly. I see that the Florida 2012 electorate was 13% black and 17% Hispanic, and the Florida Quinnipiac poll is 11% black and 15% Hispanic. So there's a skew, but is it big enough to tilt the poll to Trump? I'm not sure.
A local poll, from Bendixen and The Miami Herald, shows Clinton walloping Trump by 27 points, 52%-25%, in Miami-Dade County. The poll shows that she get a fifth of Republican voters in Miami-Dade. President Obama won big in Miami-Dade last time -- 62%-38%, a 24-point margin -- but this is a (slightly) bigger margin.
So believe what you want to believe.
I think Democrats still haven't unified. I think rank-and-file Democratic voters -- not the most politically engaged people, but average voters -- focus on politics later in a typical election cycle than rank-and-file Republicans. I checked the 2012 numbers and notice that Mitt Romney led in a lot of polls in May of that year.
So I think Clinton will in his one, but the margin will be more like the ones in 2008 or 2012 than in 1964. I think the Republicans could nominate Charles Manson and still win at least 175 electoral votes, because they think literally anyone who's not a Democrat is preferable to a Democrat.
And, yes, Sanders is still doing better than Clinton in these polls. I've felt for a while that we can't really tell how Sanders would do in a general election for three reasons: GOP opposition research hasn't been deployed against him; he'd never raise a billion dollars, and a billion dollars would be spent against him; and corporatist Democrats would refuse to support him.
I'm not sure that last worry is relevant. With the GOP running, say, John Kasich, I think the Ed Rendell and Bob Kerrey types really might defect -- but I don't see it against Trump. So that's one problem down.
The money is still a problem, however. And the GOP attacks? Well, I've said for a while that attacking him for being a socialist, or for being sympathetic to Cuba and the Soviet Union, would probably fail. The Berlin Wall fell decades ago. Most people don't care anymore. And capitalism doesn't look so great these days.
The Sanders Achilles' heel is taxes. Here's a story that didn't go viral yesterday:
Study: Sanders' Proposals Would Add $18 Trillion To Debt Over 10 YearsThis would be the bulk of the Republican campaign against Sanders. Would it work? I think it would work better than quoting some R-rated alt-weekly essay he wrote when he was in his twenties. Would it make him a weaker general-election candidate than Clinton? I really don't know.
... The Tax Policy Center estimated on Monday that Sanders' taxation-and-spending plans -- including outlays for programs like Medicare for all and free college tuition -- would together add $18 trillion to the national debt over a decade. In addition, the center's Howard Gleckman wrote, it would add $3 trillion in interest costs.
He called it an "unprecedented increase in government borrowing."
But it's moot. He's not going to win the nomination. So it would be nice to have some Democratic unity right now. Until that happens, there are going to be a number of scary polls like the ones from PPP and Quinnipiac.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the PPP poll (the full results of which have been posted now) shows that Donald Trump is less popular than lice, jury duty, root canals, and Nickelback.
And yet he stills Clinton by only 4. I'd hate to see her numbers head-to-head versus lice or root canals.
FWIW, Quinnipiac poll always down-weights their college educated voters by a significant margin. pic.twitter.com/9GlTckpRS0— Nick Gourevitch (@nickgourevitch) May 10, 2016