Bernie Sanders isn't cooked yet: New poll confirms he's still the strongest candidate against every Republican

Hillary has closed the gap -- but the new Quinnipiac poll shows Sanders runs best against Trump, Cruz, Rubio

Published December 2, 2015 6:25PM (EST)

 Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Jim Young/Photo montage by Salon)
Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Jim Young/Photo montage by Salon)

The latest Quinnipiac University national poll was released Wednesday morning and the immediate takeaway is that the GOP is in trouble. Every time a new national poll is released, it becomes more and more obvious that Donald Trump isn’t going away.

And that’s terrible news for the Republican Party, because Trump is wholly unelectable.

According to the Quinnipiac survey, Trump remains firmly atop the Republican field. Last month, Trump was at 24 percent, followed closely by Carson at 23 percent. Now, however, Trump gets 27 percent of the vote.

Carson, predictably, has slipped in the polls. His numerous gaffes and his lack of foreign policy chops have clearly hurt him in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Carson is now at 16 percent, tied for third with Cruz and just behind Rubio, who is now in second place with 17 percent support among national Republican voters.

That Trump’s numbers have gone up in the last month tells you all you need to know about his staying power. As Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll put it, “It doesn’t seem to matter what he [Trump] says or who he offends, whether the facts are contested or the ‘political correctness’ is challenged, Donald Trump seems to be wearing Kevlar.”

Trump’s appeal with a certain segment of the conservative base appears unshakable, and his crass nativism seems to help more than it hurts. And now that it’s clear Republican insiders lack the will to challenge Trump, there’s no reason to expect his numbers to fall anytime soon.

It’s also evident that the only real alternatives to Trump on the Republican side are Rubio and Cruz. Rubio is the mostly likely establishment candidate at this point and Cruz remains well-positioned to absorb the “outsider” vote should Trump collapse next year. Jeb has been a non-factor for months, and it’s only getting worse. He’s now at 5 percent and all the money in the world won’t compensate for his political ineptitude.

The picture is starting to crystallize on the Democratic side as well.

Clinton has extended her lead over Sanders, further solidifying her as the frontrunner in the race. A month ago, Clinton led Sanders 53 – 35 and as of today she leads 60 to 30. Regardless, though, the Democrats are in good shape. Both Clinton and Sanders are polling much better in head-to-head surveys with Republicans, particularly against Trump.

Clinton is now leading against Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Carson. She widened her lead over Trump (47 – 41) and she gained considerable ground on Rubio, Cruz and Carson (last month she trailed all three). Sanders is doing equally well – and in some cases better – against the Republicans. He now tops all four GOP contenders, and his lead over Trump is now 49 – 41, which is slightly better than Clinton’s head-to-head with Trump.

All of this portends good things for the Democrats.

Clinton remains the most likely Democratic nominee, and despite her negative favorability ratings, she can easily beat any of the Republican nominees in a general election. Even Sanders, who is not out of the race by any stretch, has a convincing case as a general election candidate. For all the hysteria about Sanders' “socialist” agenda, he’s still a safer alternative to the Republican candidates, as virtually every poll confirms.

And that ought to make Democrats feel much better about their chances in 2016.

By Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at

MORE FROM Sean Illing