Three Takeaways From Donald Trump’s Negative Poll Numbers

 header-hoover-institution-fellows1-1by Doug Heye

-1x-1Whatever Donald Trump says about “phony” polling, three new national polls suggest nothing good for his campaign. A Bloomberg survey out Tuesday showed Hillary Clinton leading Mr. Trump 49% to 37%, with 9% supporting libertarian Gary Johnson. An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll showed Mrs. Clinton with a seven-point lead. ABC News/Washington Post polling released Wednesday shows Mr. Trump’s unfavorable ratings continuing to spike. Seven in 10 respondents view Mr. Trump unfavorably; that includes 94% of African Americans and 89% of Hispanics. His favorability among non-college-educated whites–his base–has fallen 21 points since last month.

These numbers make an already bad situation worse for the Trump campaign for at least three reasons:

1. Democrats are coming home but aren’t there yet. President Barack Obama’s endorsement gave Mrs. Clinton a boost, but Democrats have not yet fully come together. Mrs. Clinton’s meeting Tuesday with Sen. Bernie Sanders was an important step. Once Mr. Sanders endorses Mrs. Clinton and Sanders supporters shift to her, she could receive a second boost of positive media and polling results–strengthening her position against her Republican rival.

2. Top Republicans continue to resist endorsing Donald Trump or have publicly criticized him in recent weeks. House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week that Mr. Trump’s comments about the ethnic heritage of the federal judge in a Trump University lawsuit were the “textbook definition” of racism.

Sen. Bob Corker, who had praised a Trump foreign policy speech, has expressed reservations about Mr. Trump’s speech after the mass shooting in Orlando. Sen. John Cornyn publicly expressed an opinion many Republican senators and House members have shared in private: that he doesn’t want to talk about Mr. Trump again until after the election. “Wish me luck,” Sen. Cornyn joked to reporters. In other words, they wish Donald Trump would go away. The ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 34% of Republicans view Mr. Trump unfavorably.

Such numbers are likely to minimize already scarce resources for the Trump campaign in terms of money and talent. Many Republican donors have rejected Mr. Trump, and such numbers are unlikely to persuade those on the sidelines to jump in. Similar results have been seen in private GOP polling, Mr. Trump has not pointed out findings showing him in a more favorable light.

Mr. Trump made some notable political hires after winning a majority of delegates, but he still has no true campaign organization. Conservative political staffers skilled in communications, digital operations, political organizing, and voter contact at the national and state levels worry about their reputations and the likelihood of defeat; many do not want to join the Trump campaign. As GOP strategist Sarah Isgur Flores pointed out, Mr. “Trump has killed off an entire generation of Republican political operatives who won’t have the chance to gain experience on a general election presidential campaign.”

3. Republicans have other worries. Keeping the Senate in 2016 was always going to be difficult: Several incumbents represent states that President Obama carried in 2008, 2012, or both. A candidate at the top of the ticket losing by several points could be disastrous for Senate and House candidates, as well as gubernatorial and state legislative races. Because of these worries, efforts will intensify to save “down-ballot” races, and many are likely to let the Republican presidential nominee essentially fend for himself.

Bloomberg found that 55% of respondents said they would never vote for Mr. Trump, 61% disagree with his assertion that he hasn’t done enough to fight terrorism at home because President Obama sides with Muslims, and 55% said they were very bothered by his comments about the federal judge. There is, however, a glimmer of hope for Mr. Trump: Small margins in the Bloomberg poll favor him over Mrs. Clinton on dealing with a future terror attack (45% to 41%) and combating terror (50% to 45%). Only 19% said they believe this country is on the right track.

In a normal election cycle, these numbers would show a path for Mr. Trump. This year has been anything but normal. And Mr. Trump’s inability to focus on issues that could harm his opponent and avoid rhetoric that repels all but his core supporters–criticizing the judge’s ethnic heritage for days while ignoring the dismal May jobs report, for instance–may be his biggest vulnerability. It could point the way to his defeat in November.

Doug Heye is a former communications director for the Republican National Committee and deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He is on Twitter: @DougHeye.

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