Donald Trump may be unstoppable on his way to the Republican nomination for president — but in a general election against either of the two Democratic candidates, could the New York real estate mogul and TV entertainer actually be elected President of the United States?
The possibility has many Americans who are not Trump supporters themselves extremely worried, even talking about leaving the country if Trump becomes president. The respected, and generally level-headed, commentator Juan Cole recently wrote that Trump is a “fascist” who poses “a profound danger to the American republic.”
Surveys of the supporters he attracts appear to bear out that assessment, finding alarmingly high levels of racism and intolerance, with one out of five even saying in one survey that slavery in the United States never should have ended.
Democrats and other progressives have also appeared fearful that a Trump nomination would inevitably lead to a President Donald Trump. Current Affairs Magazine recently published an article by its editor, Nathan Robinson, declaring that only Bernie Sanders has a chance of beating Trump. And the more centrist online publication Slate also ran a piece explaining why the possibility of a Trump defeat of Clinton is disturbingly possible.
For the large portion of the United States electorate dreading the prospect of President Donald Trump, however, there is also plenty to indicate that there is no real reason to panic. A look at some cold, hard data shows that if or when Trump secures the Republican nomination, he faces an extremely steep hill to climb before he can defeat either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
And that was before Trump’s GOP rival Marco Rubio tore into him during the February 25 debate in Houston, Texas, launching the first sustained attack on Trump by any other candidate in the Republican campaign so far — as seen in the following video.
The first encouraging sign for Trump opponents is the simple fact that Trump, despite running away with the Republican race, has not shown that he can put together a nationwide base of support.
In the latest national “weighted” polling average of 580 nationwide polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight, Trump had the backing of 34.8 percent of Republican voters, as of February 24.
But surveys also show that there are simply fewer Republicans than Democrats in the United States. In a Gallup poll completed earlier in February, 43 percent identified as either Republican or “leaning” Republican. In other words, Trump now has less than 35 percent support of 43 percent of U.S. voters — about 15 percent.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) February 26, 2016
A Mercury Analytics Poll taken in January, however, claimed that 20 percent of Democrats said they would cross party lines to vote for Trump in a general election. With 46 percent of American voters, according to Gallup, identifying as or “leaning” toward being Democrats, if the Mercury poll is correct, that would give Trump about another 9 percent.
That’s a total of just 24 percent of American voters who say they support Trump.
By comparison, in 2012, nominee Mitt Romney won 52.6 percent of all primary votes at a time when 47 percent of voters were Republican — outnumbering Democrats — giving him about 24 percent without counting on Democrats defecting to vote for him. Yet Romney still lost to Barack Obama, winning only 47 percent of the general election votes.
To win a general election, then, Donald Trump would need all of those 20 percent of Democrats to vote for him and would still need to do better than Romney in gaining new supporters if he hopes to actually become president.
And that won’t be easy, considering that huge numbers of American voters simply don’t like him. His “negatives” — the number of people who tell pollsters that they think unfavorably of Trump — is the highest of any candidate in either party.
According to a polling average compiled by Pollster, 57.6 percent of Americans simply don’t like Donald Trump, up to an including data released February 26. That’s higher than for the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, whose unfavorable rating is also high, at 53.6 in the Pollster average.
But looking closer at the “favorable/unfavorable” data reveals a big difference between Trump and Clinton. The “spread,” that is, the difference between favorable and unfavorable ratings, is considerably higher for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton, whose favorable rating stands at 40 percent — a -13.6 spread.
Trump’s favorable rating is only 36.1 in the Pollster average, a spread of -21.5 — a much larger “likability” gap to overcome in a general election.
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Of all candidates in both parties Clinton and Sanders were the most popular among Latino voters, each with an equal 37 percent favorable rating, according to a Washington Post survey this week.. Latino voters comprise 11.3 percent of the electorate, according to Pew Research, and they cannot stand Donald Trump, giving him a stunning 64 percent unfavorable rating.
Finally, in cases where an incumbent president is not running for reelection, that president’s job approval ratings are often an indicator of which party will take the White House next. President Barack Obama has a job approval rating that has stayed just under 50 percent since last August and is currently at 47, but showing a slight upward trend since December, according to a Gallup poll.
With a Democratic president satisfying nearly half the country with his performance, Donald Trump — on top of his own widespread unpopularity and narrow base of support — faces one more sizable obstacle in what looks like a long road to defeating either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
On the other hand, if the Donald Trump for President campaign has proven one thing about this election, it’s that all bets are off.
[Featured Photo By Tom Pennington / Getty Images]