epa05267921 (FILE) A file combo picture made available on 20 April 2016 shows US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) addressing the National Action Network's national convention in New York, New York, USA, on 13 April 2016; and US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) speaking at Trump Building in New York, New York, USA, on 03 November 2015. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has won the New York Democratic primaries according to projections, media reported. The data comes from partial counting data of the primaries held on 19 April 2016, in New York State. With 42 percent of votes counted, Clinton has received 60.2 percent and Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders 39.8 percent. US presidential hopeful and real estate tycoon Donald Trump has won the Republican primaries in New York, according to projections by US media on 19 April 2016. In the New York primaries, 95 Republican and 247 Democratic delegates were elected on 19 April, who will vote in the respective conventions to elect the presidential candidates to compete in the USA November elections. EPA/JUSTIN LANE / ANDREW GOMBERT Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (European Pressphoto Agency)

 

The latest Battleground bipartisan poll underscores how rotten a candidate Donald Trump would be in the general election and what a wasted opportunity his nomination would be for Republicans.

Hillary Clinton is unpopular, so unpopular that 46 percent strongly feel they would not consider voting for her. That leaves her with not much room for error. But wait. Trump is worse — 52 percent strongly feel they would not consider voting for him. It seems that practically any GOP candidate would have a shot against Clinton — except Trump. (Only 45 percent felt strongly they would not consider Sen. Ted Cruz.)

It gets worse, however. As a party, the GOP matches up well against the Democrats on which party is best able to handle important issues. For example, voters think Republicans would do better on the economy (53 to 42 percent), jobs (51 to 43 percent) and foreign affairs (48 to 43 percent). Even on “cares about people like me” (which Mitt Romney lost by a whopping margin of 18 to 81 percent), Republicans trail by only 4 (43 to 47 percent). But put Trump in there against Clinton and the advantages on issues disappear. Trump loses to Clinton on the economy (46 to 47 percent), barely wins on his selling point, jobs (47 to 46 percent), and gets thumped on foreign policy (33 to 60 percent) and “cares about people like me” (35 to 53 percent).

Trump, in other words, turns GOP advantages into disadvantages and deepens its problems with empathy (“cares about people like me”) and with women and minorities.

You can understand why GOP House and Senate candidates are already thinking up ways to distance themselves from  Trump. Many Republicans are already planning on staying away from the convention. Others are planning for a third candidate. John Noonan, who has been touting retired general James Mattis, says, “Many Republicans are holding out hope for Cruz and Kasich. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if Trump’s still standing when the music stops, the American people are going to want a viable choice. Not just a Trump alternative, but a Clinton alternative as well.” He adds, “Both party front runners have historically bad favorability ratings. The ground has never been more fertile for a 3rd party run.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is gamely trying to give Republicans an identity separate and apart from Trump. In a recently released video, he makes the case that “it is not our job simply to say we are just as angry as the rest of everybody else. It is not our job to just put gas on the fire. It is our job to channel this concern, this fear, this anxiety, this anger, into solutions — into ideas on how to fix it”:

It is obvious that Republicans desperately do not want to be tainted by Trump.

Unfortunately, in a presidential year, the presidential nominee sets the agenda, tone and image of the party. Trump, if he is the nominee, will overshadow everything that conscientious Republicans like Ryan are attempting to do. It is for that reason that a third candidate, a Republican who embraces Ryan’s problem-solving brand of conservatism, would be so critical. A third candidate certainly would be no guarantee that GOP majorities in the House and Senate would survive, but if Trump is the nominee, a third candidate, an actual conservative running as a third candidate, will be their only hope. They better come up with such a person — quickly.