With both major party conventions now in the rearview mirror, we’re gaining a better understanding of the state of the general election, and it’s predictably ugly for Donald Trump.
Despite a small bump in the polls following his acceptance of the Republican nomination, Trump now trails Hillary Clinton by a significant margin nationally. Worse yet for the Republican nominee is the trendline. A new Fox News poll released last night shows Clinton with a ten-point lead. A Los Angeles Times/USC poll that previously found a national lead for Trump now has Clinton up by one.
It is said, accurately, that national polls matter significantly less than state polls, but Trump is in major trouble there as well. In addition to the must-win states of Florida and Ohio, Trump has touted his supposed ability to win disaffected blue collar voters in Rust Belt states, as well as in some corners of the Northeast. Yet, in New Hampshire he’s down by an incredible seventeen points. In Pennsylvania, he faces an eleven-point deficit. In Michigan, Trump is down by 9; in Nevada, he’s down by one. Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, — he’s down in all. And in a clear sign of trouble, in the deep red state of Georgia the race is tied. Georgia last went blue in 1992.
In the present state of the race, Nate Silver gives Trump a 22.3% chance of winning. Meanwhile, down-ticket Republicans are beginning to suffer, as are Republican chances of holding their Congressional majorities. In New Hampshire, where Trump is trailing badly, incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte (R) is losing to Democratic challenger Governor Maggie Hassan by ten points. In Pennsylvania, incumbent Senator Pat Toomey (R) is in a tough fight with former Clinton adviser Kathleen McGinty. And in Wisconsin, incumbent Senator Ron Johnson (R) is losing badly to former Senator Russ Feingold (D).
The general election is far from over and extraordinary factors could theoretically alter the outcome, but it’s clear that, at this point, Trump is headed for a significant defeat. And thanks to his political toxicity, he may take a chunk of the Republican Congressional majorities with him. By nominating an unpopular and unpredictable bloviator with no policy or political experience, Republicans have taken an eminently winnable election against a vulnerable Democratic nominee and turned it into a train wreck.
Republican leadership, meanwhile, continues to wait for Godot. Every day we see a story from an insider or surrogate in which some major official is said to be expecting a pivot in the near future. The party leadership that so obsequiously rolled over for Trump at the convention continues to hope Trump will magically transform into a real presidential candidate with a real, substantive message and, more importantly, message discipline. They have yet to realize that no change is forthcoming. This is the Real Trump; you’re seeing what you’ll be getting right up to election day. He wasn’t playing a role in the primary and he won’t be transforming into a statesman for the general. His message is one of vitriol and grievance-mongering. It’s one that has brought him this far, he knows of no alternative strategy, he lacks the intellectual and ideological depth to partake in a real policy debate, and so to this course he’ll stay true.
What matters now is registering your objection to his character and toxic brand of politics before the coming electoral loss. Condemning Trump does not require a denunciation of conservatism. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Trump is not a conservative, he’s a wannabe-strongman who deals in grievances and has tendencies toward big government. His respect for the United States Constitution and tradition is non-existent. Now is the time to forcibly distance the ideology of Edmund Burke, Barry Goldwater, and William F. Buckley, Jr., from the intellectually-vapid rhetoric of the snake oil salesman with a bad combover.