More strikingly, a Monmouth poll released yesterday found that registered voters nationally say by 68-27 that Trump does not have the “right temperament to be president.” But they say Clinton does by 54-42. So, for all of Clinton’s very real personal weaknesses — likability, trustworthiness, and so forth — Trump may be the one GOP candidate who would give Clinton the biggest advantage when it comes to the contrast in personal attributes. He might be the perfect foil to her in one personal area where she excels, i.e., temperament and experience.
Meanwhile, the developing attack lines on Trump seem premised on a near-certainty that if he is the nominee, the Obama coalition — minorities, young voters, and college educated whites — will come out again in 2016, possibly in even greater percentages, and in addition, that Trump could enable Clinton to drive up the gender gap to untold levels. Attacks on Trump as sexist and homophobic seem aimed at young voters — a crucial part of the Obama coalition — and of course at women, particularly suburban Republican women and female independents, who (if reached successfully) could potentially help Dems broaden the map to places like North Carolina and Arizona (where Latinos would be crucial, too).
However, one thing that seems missing here is a clear signal that Democrats will be very explicit and forceful in targeting Trump’s xenophobia and bigotry. You’d think this would be a no brainer, because it could help drive up the nonwhite gap to historic levels and because it’s the right thing to do.
Beyond that, betting on a combination of a juiced up Obama coalition and a wider gender gap against Trump makes some sense. Republican operatives themselves appear to believe that Trump’s penchant for ugly, chest-beating sexism could badly tar the GOP in the eyes of female voters. One senior GOP pollster recently suggested that a Trump nomination could put Latinos out of reach for the GOP for many years. Recent polls have also shown Clinton crushing Trump among younger voters.
The likelihood of a big Clinton advantage among women — and perhaps among younger voters, too — also undercuts one of Trump’s primary arguments for general election viability. Trump hopes to win by running up big numbers among white voters — particularly blue collar whites — in the industrial Midwest. As I’ve reported, Trump would have to improve enormously on Mitt Romney’s performance among them to seriously contest some of those Rust Belt states. If Clinton can do better than Obama did among college educated white women — not to mention blue collar white women — Trump’s formula could become even more far fetched.
One thing worth watching for: Whether Dems actually do make a serious effort to compete for blue collar whites, or whether they mostly bet on the Obama coalition to carry them to victory. Doing the former might mean developing a line of argument against Trump on the economy that goes well beyond attacking his business record and accusing him of exploiting and conning working people. Trump has tapped into very real grievances about the ways in which our economic and political systems are failing people, and he clearly has managed to persuade a lot of voters that he has their backs economically. So it’ll be interesting to see how forcefully Dems make the case that Trump’s economic arguments are fraudulent, and that theirs are better: that Trump is dumbing down the impact of trade deals; that his tax plan would actually shower top earners with a huge windfall; that he wouldn’t raise the minimum wage; and that mass deportations are not the way to protect struggling Americans’ economic interests.
Priorities USA spokesman Justin Barasky assures me that this, too, is in the works. “If Donald Trump is the nominee, we fully expect to aggressively draw contrasts with his wrongheaded and often mean-spirited polices,” Barasky tells me. “Trump wants to build a wall around the country and ban all Muslims. Trump doesn’t want to raise wages. He’s far out of step with mainstream America.”
One of the central questions in this election has long been whether Hillary Clinton, as the Dem nominee, will be able to turn out Obama coalition voters in Obama-like numbers. If Trump does become the GOP nominee, Dems appear confident that he’ll give them a big assist in this regard.