First Look

Clinton's 'exceptional' lead over Trump: One for the history books?

The dust is still settling from the post-convention bounce, but Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump in polls by 'historic proportions.'

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    Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton prepares to speak at a campaign rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Las Vegas, Aug. 4. In eight of nine recent polls, Clinton is leading Trump by 3 to 15 points.
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With Donald Trump’s poll numbers tanking, Republicans are starting to worry. 

According to RealClearPolitics, a poll aggregator, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads Mr. Trump in eight of the nine of the polls released this week, and they are tied in the ninth. Mrs. Clinton’s leads range from three to 15 points for an average lead of 6.7 points.

“How big is that? Big,” writes The Washington Post. “Relative to Election Day in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Clinton’s lead is more than twice that of the eventual victor at this point.”

The Post notes two caveats: In 2004, George W. Bush once had a 6-point lead and in 2008 President Barack Obama had a 6-point lead in the final month of the election.

“Other than that, though, Clinton’s lead is exceptional.”

Trump’s numbers are falling in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, two key swing states. For Republicans, this spells trouble for "down ticket" races in the House and Senate, as voters increasingly choose one political party for their entire ballot. 

“In 1984, 1 out of every 2 voters cast a vote for the president of one party and a member of Congress from the other,” Terry Madonna, director of a recent Franklin & Marshall College Poll of Pennsylvania poll, told The Hill. “In 2012, that number dropped to 20 percent, 1 in 5. So we’re talking about the proverbial coattail effect. You could see that having a huge effect in the Senate.”

Incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) of New Hampshire is trailing her Democratic opponent, Gov. Maggie Hassan, by 10 points. Other senators facing a tough race in key states include Sen. Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania, Sen. Rob Portman (R) of Ohio, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida. 

“It scares them,” Brian Darling, a former Senate Republican aide told The Hill bluntly. “Any Republican in cycle is looking at the polls right now and it makes them very nervous.”

Some pollsters preach caution, writing off Clinton’s substantial lead as part of the traditional post-convention bounce. Other pollsters say Clinton’s lead will last and Trump’s recent criticism of a gold star family is a game-changing moment.

Analysts are also giving recent polls more weight than most post-convention numbers because of growing party unity among Democrats. It seems that supporters of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont are coming around, with 90 percent saying they will back Clinton in November. This is a significant increase from the 60 to 70 percent support shown before the convention.

Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a polling analyst for Bloomberg, says a clear shift can’t be assumed until mid-August, when the convention dust has settled. But even then, this election loss could end up being one for this history books, he adds. 

“Fifteen points is more than Ronald Reagan won in his landslide victories. If you’re in a world where it’s over 10, then this is a landslide of historic proportions,” said Professor Goldstein.

“Real talk, Trump is cratering,” tweeted Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “He needs to overhaul his general election strategy if he wants to have any hope of winning in 95 days.”

 
 
 

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