This post has been corrected.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but a new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that the most likely outcome of this presidential race is the following: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in the general election, and Hillary Clinton wins. Standard polling caveats apply, not the least of which is that the campaign hasn't started and that polls taken well in advance of an actual election are often not predictive. But reading this poll on this day with these numbers? That's the logical conclusion.
Why Trump will almost certainly win the nomination.
Quinnipiac asked Republicans who they'd like to see win the party's nomination. Donald Trump got 43 percent to Ted Cruz's 29.
Now, the general understanding is that if John Kasich were to drop out — to trudge back to the quiet confines of the flat-topped Ohio statehouse — Cruz and Trump would be running neck-and-neck. That, maybe, Cruz would be in the lead. This is what a Washington Post-ABC News poll found earlier this month, after all, prior to Marco Rubio dropping out.
But when Quinnipiac asked Republicans now, the results were different. Of those Kasich supporters who had a choice, Cruz wasn't the only beneficiary: Nearly a quarter of his support went to Trump. If Cruz dropped out, nearly half of his support would go to Trump. (Quinnipiac derived these numbers by asking voters who their second choices would be.)
If Kasich drops out, Quinnipiac figures that Trump has a nine-point lead over Cruz, just shy of the 50 percent mark. There's a big chunk that's represented by that gray bar, though, and Trump only needs four percent from that group to hit 50 percent. If Cruz dropped out: Trump's well over 50 percent.
But how can that be!, you exclaim. What about all the violence at his rallies and what-not? Well, perhaps you haven't been paying attention since last June, but Trump has a remarkable ability to brush off whatever controversies are thrown at him. For example, Quinnipiac asked about the violence at Trump's rallies, incidents in which protesters were punched, pushed and kicked by Trump supporters after loudly interrupting the event.
Who do people think is most to blame? The protesters.
Trump does it again.
In other words, then, all the evidence suggests that Trump — who already leads in the delegate count — will be the Republican nominee come July. And, as we hashed out earlier on Wednesday, he'll face Hillary Clinton in November.
But about that!
Why Trump will likely lose the general election.
Quinnipiac polled to see how Clinton and Trump fared head-to-head, and Clinton has a six-point lead. But there's a lot of campaign between now and November, and please read this for a longer rant about why we should set this aside for now.
Trump's also more unpopular than Clinton, with a net favorability (those who view him favorably minus those who don't) of -28, worse than Clinton's -17. But let's set that aside, too, since those numbers will/could/may change. (The longer rant about that is here.)
One reason both the top-line poll numbers and the favorability numbers are iffy is that we're still in the heart of a contested primary. People who really want Bernie Sanders to win really don't like Hillary Clinton right now (and if you don't believe me, just ask them) — just as people who really wanted Hillary Clinton to win in 2008 really didn't like Barack Obama at about this point of that year. But in November, the vast majority of Democrats voted for Obama.
The question is if Republicans will do that this time, with Trump. And Quinnipiac's poll suggests: Maybe not. Almost three times as many Republicans say they'd never vote for Trump than Democrats say the same about Clinton.
What's more, more than half of independents say they'd never vote for Trump compared to fewer than half who say that about Clinton. These figures, too, can/will/may change, but it suggests that the idea that Trump has opposition to his candidacy as deeply rooted as the support he's enjoyed in the primaries isn't far off-base. That Republicans may not come home for Trump the way they have for candidates in the past — or that Republicans may simply stay home more than Democrats.
Who knows! There are 230 days until the election, and 230 days ago Jeb Bush was in second place in the Republican race. Things change.
The original post used numbers for the second choices of Cruz and Kasich backers that were incorrect. They have been corrected.