The 2016 presidential election continues to defy all rules. Most pundits predicted that even if Trump appeals to Republican primary voters, he would lose the general election. In a new Quinnipiac poll released today, Republican front-runner Donald Trump would defeat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the key battleground state of Florida. Previous polls showed Trump losing badly, but he has turned that around. However, Vice-president Joe Biden, who is not running, would beat Trump by three percent points. In fact, Biden does better than Clinton against Trump in all three key states in that poll.
The poll is not good news for Democrats in Florida, which Barack Obama carried twice. Jeb Bush beats Clinton in his home state 49 to 38. Rubio does slightly better, beating Clinton 51 to 39. Both Bush and Rubio would defeat Biden and Sanders in Florida.
In the battleground state of Ohio, which Republicans must win to take the White House, Clinton defeats Bush 41 to 39, but she loses to Rubio 42 to 40. Biden, however, would defeat Bush, Rubio and Trump. His margin over Trump is five percentage points higher than Clinton’s. In Ohio, Sanders would defeat Trump, but lose to Bush and Rubio.
In the third state, Pennsylvania, the news is not good for Hillary. She loses to Bush 43 to 40. Rubio, however, does much better. He defeats Clinton 47 to 40. Clinton beats Trump, however, 45 to 40. Vice-President Biden loses to Bush by only 1 point 43 to 42. He loses to Rubio by only 3 points 44 to 41. Biden beats by Trump 48 to 40, doing better than Clinton. Bernie Sanders loses to Bush 44 – 36 and loses to Rubio 45 – 33. He defeats Trump 44 to 41, however.
These numbers, while early, are not good news for Democrats. President Obama carried all there of these states twice, by comfortable margins. The fact that the two announced candidates are generally behind Republicans is not good. These results might encourage Vice-president Biden to join the race.
Bernie Sanders, although he is behind the non-Trump candidates, is gaining ground in the polls. The underdog has been drawing large crowds everywhere, and his trajectory is going in the right direction. Clinton defeated all Republicans by big numbers last spring. Her trajectory is going down, not up. Clinton’s favorability ratings are going down. They range from a high of 38 percent in Pennsylvania to 36 in Florida and Ohio. Sanders and Biden have higher favorability ratings in all three states and nationally.
Clinton’s problem is that she is being dogged by a constant drip of negative stories about her emails. Her response has been to avoid the subject. The Clinton campaign deserves an F minus for their strategy in dealing with this issue, which may be overblown in the media, certainly in conservative media. Hillary stayed quiet and out-of-sight for months, refusing to speak to the press allowing her critics to define the problem and convict her in her absence. When she addresses it now, she seems defensive, dismissive, and irritated.
She would be wiser to appear contrite, admit convincingly that it was a mistake, and promise to be totally transparent from now on. Frankly, she should not have wiped the server clean because it looks like she is hiding something, and she should have turned it over when the story broke last spring. Her campaign should have pressed her on this daily.
The big questions are one, will Bernie Sanders catch up and win the nomination, and can he increase his head to head numbers against Republicans? Two, will Clinton’s problems convince Biden to get in the race, and can he come from behind and be a serious candidate in both the primary and the general election? Neither of these are certainties.
The Clinton campaign is far from doomed. Republicans have a proclivity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by their extreme positions and statements. Their policies are not supported by the general public in most polls. Republicans have a structural problem called the Republican voter. To win a primary, Republican candidates need to run to the far right and bash immigrants. This dooms them in a general election.
It is still too early to pronounce any winner or loser, but it is an interesting race to watch.