For once, a respite from my strongly held opinions on Trump. Let me just break down for you what I see happening and ask someone to make the contrary case.
Right now, Clinton is ahead of Trump by 4.3% in the polling averages. She has led Trump in all but eight of the last seventy polls. Of those eight, four were Rasmussen polls and Rasmussen continues to be about the worst pollster in the United States, as it has been since 2012.
Trump has good news today from Quinnipiac, which has him competitive with Clinton in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. But competitive is not winning. At the same time, there are more Republican states competitive for Clinton than there are Democrat states competitive for Trump.
On top of that, Clinton has an overwhelming fundraising advantage. Republican donors have decided to sit on the sidelines and are neither funding Trump nor the RNC. Because of Trump, corporate sponsors have pulled out of the convention, so the RNC is going to have to cover those costs. Because of limited funds, neither the Trump campaign nor the RNC can hire ground games in swing states.
In fact, the Trump campaign lacks a significant ground game in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Hampshire, and Nevada. The Trump campaign has likewise eschewed big data operations to identify persuadable voters. On top of that, the Trump campaign and RNC are probably going to have to spend resources in Arizona and Missouri, two states they should not have to worry about, and might have to spend resources in Georgia. On top of that, North Carolina looks less and less winnable for Trump in terms of ground operations and polling. The GOP will probably even lose the North Carolina Senate seat.
The Trump response has been that by force of personality and hatred of Hillary Clinton, he is going to move voters to his camp.
But most of Clinton’s negatives are fully baked in. Benghazi has been known for a long time. All the Clinton scandals are known. The email situation is most likely to hurt her, but Democrats will stick with her and there are more of those than there are Republicans. Her negatives remain lower than Trump’s even after the email scandal and even if Trump and the RNC wanted to make it an issue, they don’t have a ton of resources.
On the issue of Trump’s force of personality, I am at a loss to think who now will convert to Trump that has not already converted to Trump. If the same shtick did not work before now, how now will it work? On top of that, the Trump shtick was able to work because the media ran his speeches uncritically and wall to wall in a primary season where he battled 17 candidates, none of whom could compete against the wall to wall free, mostly uncritical media Trump received. Since he became the presumptive nominee almost all of the media has taken a negative and highly critical turn against Trump.
Add into this that most of the negatives about Clinton are already known and most of the negatives about Trump are not as widely known. There is a lot more ground to explore with Trump and the Clinton operation and Democrats combined have several hundred million dollars more to use to explore that ground with the American people. For a reference point, Trump’s Republican opponents and anti-Trump outside groups spent $42.7 million against Trump in the primaries total. That will amount to one month of negative ads against him by the Democrats in the thirty days after his nomination is secured. For even more reference, that $42.7 million is for the total campaign primary season where in 2012 Mitt Romney spent $15 million for just Florida. In other words, compared to prior years, the GOP really did not spend a great deal of money attacking Trump and even then waited to do so well after the momentum was fully in his direction. Democrats are not going to make that same mistake.
Lastly, a chunk of evangelical, conservative, and even moderate Republicans will not vote for Trump. The Democrats are the larger of the two parties and more Democrats are backing Clinton than there are Republicans backing Trump. Right now, Clinton has over 90% Democrat loyalty and Trump only has around 70% loyalty within the GOP. But even if he had 100% loyalty in the GOP that number would still be smaller than the 90% loyalty from Democrats. Trump has to persuade moderate and independent voters, but is losing every demographic except non-college educated white voters to Clinton. In fact, for the first time since 1952 the Democrats are winning white college educated voters.
So I’m honestly curious to know what Trump Republicans see as his path to victory. All I hear is “he is not Hillary.” And they are right. He has higher negatives, worse polling, less party loyalty, less money, and more states on defense. To win he must hold all of Romney’s states with 206 electoral college votes and find 64 more electoral college votes. Even if Trump wins all of Romney’s states and wins Pennsylvania and Florida, he would still lose to Clinton and on top of that he is more likely than not going to lose North Carolina while having to spend resources just to play defense in Arizona and Missouri.
So strategically, how does Trump win?
The best I get from Trump partisans is that the polling is wrong. But it has been pretty accurate so far except Rasmussen. And I get that he is a new style of candidate, but what worked in a field of 17 Republicans in a primary does not seem like it will work in a general.
So what does he do? I am genuinely curious and made more curious by the reality that if you swapped Trump with just about any one of the other seventeen Republicans next week, they would start the general election with more willing donors, better favorability, better odds in Romney won states, and a more enthusiastic party operation.