Donald Trump's dominance has obscured just how unpopular he is outside of the conservative bubble. Even among Republican voters, if you dig a little deeper, you find that Trump has serious problems. Nate Silver elaborates: “Trump has consistently had the plurality of Republican support in polls, but those same polls suggest that Trump faces unusually high resistance from voters who don't have him as their first choice...Many of them would be unhappy with a Trump nomination, more than is typical for a polling front-runner.”
In short, Trump is extremely popular with his base, but deeply disliked by everyone else. Republican voters who have supported Cruz or Rubio or Kasich will not reliably unite behind Trump in November – that's a problem for the GOP. Now that Cruz and Kasich are backing away from their pledge to support Trump if he wins the nomination, the landscape is even more challenging.
It's worse if you extend the analysis to include the broader electorate. As The Washington Post reports, “If Donald Trump secures the Republican presidential nomination, he would start the general election campaign as the least-popular candidate to represent either party in modern times...Three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. So do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.”
These are daunting numbers. There is no discernible path to the White House for Trump against this kind of resistance. In the 32 years the Washington Post-ABC News survey has been tracking candidates, no major-party nominee has produced unfavorability scores like this.
If this wasn't sufficiently exciting for Democrats, we now have Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball updated Electoral College projections for a potential Clinton-Trump general election. The results, as you might expect, are as encouraging for Democrats as they are demoralizing for Republicans.
In May 2015, Sabato projected a Democratic victory in November, but the map showed a close and competitive race. A majority of 270 votes in the Electoral College is the magic number: Sabato had the Democrats winning 247, the Republicans winning 206, and 85 considered toss-ups. That's hardly a lock, but good news for Democrats nonetheless.
The latest projections aren't nearly as close.
Relying on “Each state's electoral history, developing demographics, and current polling data,” Sabato's team predicts that Democrats are likely to secure 347 Electoral College votes to a paltry 191 for Republicans (again, this is assuming it's Clinton versus Trump). A lot can change between now and the election – scandals, a third party candidate, an indictment, economic shocks, terrorism, etc. But these are revealing numbers in any event.
Given Trump's limited appeal with women, minorities, and independents, a landslide victory for Clinton – or Sanders, for that matter – is more than a little plausible. The latest polls show Clinton with a 10 or ll point lead over Trump among national voters. If that holds, Clinton would likely win more Electoral College votes than Obama did in 2008 (365 to McCain's 173).
Presidential elections are often decided in a handful of swing states, and when you look closely at the data, all signs point in favor of the Democrats. Sabato explains:
“Election analysts prefer close elections, but there was nothing we could do to make this one close. Clinton's total is 347 electoral votes, which includes 190 safe, 57 likely, and 100 that lean in her direction. Trum has a total of 191 (142 safe, 48 likely, and 1 leans). Over the years we've put much emphasis on the seven super-swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia. While some will fall to the Democrats less readily than others, it is difficult to see any that Trump is likely to grab. In fact, four normally Republican states (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri) would be somewhat less secure for the GOP than usual. North Carolina, which normally leans slightly to the GOP, would also be well withn Clinton's grasp in this election.”
The predictions are slightly better for Republicans if Cruz is the nominee, but not as close as they'd prefer. Trump, however, will have the most votes and the most delegates going in to the convention. If someone else is the nominee, it will be because party elites thwarted the will of their own voters. In that case, the revolt alone would likely cost Republicans the White House.
Establishment Republicans are well aware of these numbers, and that's why they're scrambling more and more to stop Trump. The truth, though, is that there isn't a solution to the Trump problem that doesn't include a loss in November. If nothing else, Sabato's projections are just another reminder of that fact.