OFF TO THE RACES

Donald Trump’s Glass Jaw

Hillary Clinton figures to score an easy knockout over the GOP front-runner.

AP Photo
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
Charlie Cook
March 24, 2016, 8 p.m.

It’s easy to un­der­stand why Re­pub­lic­ans are so frus­trated about this pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. Both his­tory and a highly vul­ner­able pre­sumptive Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee ar­gue strongly that this should be a very win­nable elec­tion for them. Yet things don’t look very rosy for the GOP right now.

There is a pen­du­lum ef­fect in pres­id­en­tial elec­tions. After a party has held the White House for two terms, voters usu­ally feel it’s time for a change. In 1960, after eight years un­der Re­pub­lic­an Dwight Eis­en­hower, Demo­crat John Kennedy won. After eight years un­der Kennedy and Lyn­don John­son, Re­pub­lic­an Richard Nix­on won in 1968. After two terms un­der Nix­on and Ger­ald Ford, Demo­crat Jimmy Carter won in 1976. After Bill Clin­ton’s eight years, George W. Bush won in 2000. After eight years un­der Bush, Barack Obama won in 2008.

All told, the pat­tern has held in five of six elec­tions since World War II. The lone ex­cep­tion was 1988. After eight years un­der Pres­id­ent Re­agan, his vice pres­id­ent, George H.W. Bush, served one term be­fore los­ing to Clin­ton. There is noth­ing ma­gic­al about eight years, but voters tend to be ready to go in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion, to give the oth­er side a chance. Maybe they don’t like the idea of one party stay­ing in of­fice too long.

Then there is Hil­lary Clin­ton, the al­most-cer­tain Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee (bar­ring a Justice De­part­ment in­ter­ven­tion). Her num­bers were strong as re­cently as four years ago, with 58 per­cent of voters rat­ing her pos­it­ively in the Decem­ber 2012 NBC News/Wall Street Journ­al poll, com­pared to 28 per­cent who viewed her neg­at­ively, a net of plus-30. In the NBC/WSJ’s most-re­cent poll, re­leased last week, her pos­it­ives were 20 points lower at 38 per­cent and her neg­at­ives had soared by 23 points to 51 per­cent, a net of minus-13. The move­ment wasn’t be­cause of erosion among Demo­crats or rising Re­pub­lic­an op­pos­i­tion, it was be­cause in­de­pend­ents had turned against her. In the Decem­ber 2012 NBC/WSJ poll, her pos­it­ive-neg­at­ive score among in­de­pend­ents was 52 to 30 per­cent (net plus-22), but now those num­bers have flipped up­side-down to 23 per­cent pos­it­ive and 64 per­cent neg­at­ive, a net minus-41.

An­oth­er way of look­ing at it is to com­pare how well Clin­ton and Bernie Sanders fare against vari­ous Re­pub­lic­an con­tenders. In last week’s NBC/WSJ poll, Clin­ton led Don­ald Trump by 13 points, 51 to 38 per­cent, but Sanders was even fur­ther ahead, best­ing him by 18 points, 55 to 37 per­cent. Us­ing the Real­Clear­Polit­ics av­er­ages of all of the ma­jor na­tion­al polls, Clin­ton beats Trump by 9.2 per­cent­age points, 48.5 to 39.3 per­cent, while Sanders wal­lops him by 16.4 points, 54.2 to 37.8 per­cent. Sanders beats Ted Cruz by 8.7 points, 49.7 to 41 per­cent, while Clin­ton edges out Cruz by just 1.4 points, 46.4 to 45 per­cent. John Kasich beats Clin­ton by 5.2 per­cent­age points, 48 to 42.8 per­cent, but Sanders slips by Kasich by six-tenths of a point, 45.3 to 44.7 per­cent (the mar­gins in both Kasich match­ups were stat­ist­ic­ally in­sig­ni­fic­ant).

The point of this is not to trum­pet Sanders’s strengths. Once a Re­pub­lic­an ex­plained to voters what it means to be a demo­crat­ic so­cial­ist, Sanders’s num­bers would likely look very dif­fer­ent. In­deed, he might well be­come an even-less-elect­able Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee. But his com­par­at­ive strength now shows what a Demo­crat without Clin­ton’s polit­ic­al bag­gage might do, par­tic­u­larly against sev­er­al flawed GOP nom­in­ees.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s job-ap­prov­al rat­ings, on the oth­er hand, are not bad at all: 49 per­cent ap­prove and 46 per­cent dis­ap­prove in the new NBC/WSJ poll, a marked im­prove­ment over sev­en years of dis­tinctly lackluster rat­ings. He seems to be de­fy­ing the two-term curse.

It’s only slightly fa­cetious to sug­gest that giv­en the prob­lems fa­cing the parties and their lead­ing can­did­ates, a placebo nom­in­ee might well be do­ing bet­ter. While Ted Cruz is al­most surely not the ideal Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee, he runs bet­ter than Trump, with Kasich do­ing bet­ter than either of the oth­er two. In­deed, just about any non-po­lar­iz­ing Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee could do quite well against Clin­ton. A Trump nom­in­a­tion would seem to be the worst out­come for the GOP since he may be the only ma­jor Re­pub­lic­an fig­ure who can’t beat Clin­ton.

What is so un­usu­al about this Re­pub­lic­an race is that it isn’t about ideo­lo­gic­al ex­trem­ism. In 1964, the Re­pub­lic­an Party, then a cen­ter-right party, got car­ried away with Barry Gold­wa­ter and drove off a cliff, los­ing in a land­slide to Pres­id­ent John­son. In 1972, the Demo­crat­ic Party, in those days a cen­ter-left party, drove off the oth­er cliff with George McGov­ern, and got thumped by Pres­id­ent Nix­on.

Now the GOP has be­come a right party and the Demo­crats a left party, but the Re­pub­lic­ans seem in­clined to choose a nom­in­ee with little dis­cern­ible ideo­logy. Speak­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post ed­it­or­i­al board this week, Trump painted him­self as a non­in­ter­ven­tion­ist and a pro­tec­tion­ist, 180 de­grees from where the GOP has stood in re­cent years. But Trump is run­ning on an­ger, not philo­sophy, and sadly many Amer­ic­ans are in sym­pathy with his mood.

What We're Following See More »
MAYBE MORE COMING
Cohn Rules Out Easing Russian Sanctions
9 hours ago
BREAKING
CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MINIMUM 2 PERCENT GDP
Trump Tells NATO Countries To Pay Up
1 days ago
BREAKING
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login