In recent days I’ve been asking political strategists of all stripes if Donald Trump could actually win in November, and sometimes it’s hard to get a direct answer. Usually, the person begins by telling me why the presumptive Republican nominee is undeserving—how he lacks the temperament or scruples or policy chops necessary to be president. When I reply that my question is about his prospects, not his qualifications, I’m told that a Trump victory would be very difficult but not out of the question. And that he’d have to win ugly.
Several recent national polls show Mr. Trump narrowing the gap with Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out this week put Mrs. Clinton three points ahead of Mr. Trump, down from 11 points in April. An ABC News/Washington Post poll has Mr. Trump leading Mrs. Clinton, 46% to 44%. The New York businessman is benefiting from the fact that his primary rivals have quit the race, while Mrs. Clinton is still fighting an increasingly nasty rear-guard battle against Bernie Sanders.
Still, there is less here than meets the eye. State-level polling matters more than national surveys, and polling in large battleground states that President Obama won in 2012 matters most. Mr. Trump ultimately must prevail in the Electoral College, and nothing in the current state polls predicts that happening. According to Real Clear Politics, Mrs. Clinton leads in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan—all of which went Democratic four years ago. If Mr. Trump isn’t competitive in these states, he likely loses.
In recent decades, the Republican coalition has included free-market advocates, military hawks and social conservatives, and Mr. Trump’s complicated relationships with all three factions has been on full display. Instead of unifying the party in the traditional sense, he wants to construct a different coalition centered largely around white blue-collar voters who have been economically marginalized by globalization and scorned by liberal elites.Read the rest of Jason Riley's op-ed HERE.
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