Trump trails Clinton badly in national polls, by more than 10 points in the RealClearPolitics average.
We have yet to see a blue or purple state in which Trump beats Clinton. Recent polls, for example, show him losing New York by 20 points, Wisconsin by 10 points and Michigan by 11 points. Trump even manages to lose North Carolina and Utah by 2 points. That will remake the map, to be certain, but not in a way that is favorable to Republicans.
Trump’s support among women and just about every segment of the electorate has cratered. As former Texas governor Rick Perry said after Trump’s disastrous remark on punishing women who have abortions, “I don’t know how he gets himself out of that hole. I mean, even if he stops digging, it’s so deep that I think most voters out there are like, ‘is this person really thoughtful enough, is he mature enough, does he really care enough to learn the issues?’ Real questions are starting to come up about Donald Trump and his preparedness to be president of the United States.”
Republicans’ comfort derived from generic polling that shows Republicans leading slightly may well be misplaced. “If Trump’s the nominee, congressional Republicans risk their own voters staying home and millennials and Latinos voting in droves,” David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report tells me. That means “potentially putting into play some districts that aren’t even on either party’s radar screen right now.”
For the same reason, Republicans in blue states (Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin) will be goners, while Republicans in purple (Pennsylvania, Florida) and red states (Nevada’s open seat) will have to run ahead of the top of the ticket by double digits.
What was apparent to many #NeverTrump forces months ago is now dawning on Republican primary and caucus voters and especially on those convention delegates, many of whom may be on the ballot for state and federal offices.
The difference between potentially losing with Cruz as the nominee (with Trump running independently or stomping out of the convention) and losing with Trump is huge. In the former, Republicans will be turning out to vote for Cruz, many enthusiastically. In the latter, Republicans stay home, and the House and Senate majorities go down the drain. And of course, Cruz has a shot to actually win. (He’s less than 3 points back in the RCP average.)
The GOP is not out of the woods yet, and Trump can still get to 1,237 delegates. Pretty soon it will be Cruz, not Trump, who will be spouting poll numbers at every rally and interview. That will only fuel the growing perception, especially among those delegates who could well pick the nominee, that Trump will destroy the party’s chances up and down the ballot in November. And look, no one wants to be a “loser.”