Where the General Election Begins

Trump supporters are out in force saying that all of us who said Trump would never be the Republican nominee were wrong. Therefore, we are wrong when we say he most likely will lose the general election. The problem with this statement is that it ignores a central fact. Republicans, myself included, who were dismissive of Trump were dismissive because we assumed the polls were wrong. Unfortunately, the polls were consistent that Trump would be the Republican nominee. Likewise, the very same polling that showed Trump would be the Republican nominee also showed consistently that he would lose to Hillary Clinton.

For Trump supporters to be confident in Trump’s future success, they must believe that one question on a polling survey got the right answer and the second question got the wrong answer. For Republicans who dismissed the polling, but recognize it was right and they were wrong, now the polling is very instructive.

As we begin the general election, the polling shows us that Trump will have to veer left to win and in veering left will lose more of the fragile coalition he thinks he can assemble.

Mr. Trump trails Mrs. Clinton by around 10 percentage points in early general election surveys, both nationally and in key battleground states.

He even trails in some polls of several states where Mitt Romney won in 2012, like North Carolina, Arizona, Missouri and Utah.

Likewise, sixty percent of voters have an unfavorable view of Trump nationally. More than half the voters have a strongly unfavorable view of Trump.

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll showed Mr. Trump with just a 29 percent favorability rating among white women and 23 percent among white college graduates, while 68 percent and 74 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Mr. Trump is faring worse than Mr. Romney among white voters in all of the presidential battleground states. Polls even show Mr. Trump losing white voters in states where Mr. Romney won them, like Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s enough to put him at a big disadvantage in early surveys of diverse battleground states like Florida and Virginia — as well as North Carolina and Arizona, two states Mr. Romney won in 2012.

Mr. Trump has even trailed in a poll in strongly Republican Utah, which is one of the best-educated states in the country. It’s unlikely that Mrs. Clinton could win Utah in the end, but it’s nonetheless telling that Mr. Trump trails in a survey of a state where Democrats have not reached 35 percent of the vote in the last 11 presidential elections.


Trump supporters have gotten a basic rule of politics wrong. They presumed that because they like Trump and are angry at the way things are, everyone must be. When I was a political consultant I’d admonish my candidates to know when they are in the minority, even when they think they are right. Trump’s voters may think they are right, but they are not just in the minority, but rather they are in the minority of the minority political party.

Certainly an economic disaster or terrorist attack could help Trump. I have already been in conversations with Republicans near wishfully hoping for a terrorist attack to benefit Trump’s candidacy. It is appalling that Republicans are left rooting for terrorists to help their candidate. But even that is not a sure guarantee. The Democrats will spend over $100 million against Donald Trump and about the same to rehabilitate Hillary Clinton’s image.

Mrs. Clinton has a 99% recognition in this country and only a 37% unfavorable rating. Donald Trump has at least a 90% recognition now and a 60% unfavorable rating. There is more room for the Democrats to drive up Trump’s unfavorable ratings than Mrs. Clinton’s because Trump already starts out as disliked by most Americans so those Americans will more readily believe negative statements on Trump.

These are just the facts of where the general election begins. It begins at a greater deficit in support for Donald Trump than for either John McCain or Mitt Romney.

Good luck Republicans.

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Erick Erickson

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