Donald Trump Unraveled

Column: More reasons Republicans should worry about November

• August 19, 2016 5:00 am


"I think I unraveled her." That is Trump adviser Michael Cohen describing his encounter Wednesday with CNN anchor Brianna Keilar.

What an unraveling looks like to Trump world:

When Keilar pointed out that Donald Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, Cohen responded, "Says who?"

"Polls, most of them, all of them," Keilar said.


And Cohen asked again: "Says who?"

"Polls, I just told you. I answered your question."

"Ok," Cohen said. "Which polls?"

"All of them."

She’s not kidding. As I write, Hillary Clinton enjoys a 5.8 percent lead over Trump in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. She has led in all 23 polls released since late July. Her head-to-head advantage this month ranges from one point to 10 points. Political scientists observe that since 1952 the "candidate in the lead two weeks after the conventions ended went on to win the popular vote every single time."

These national polls understate Trump’s problems. The Real Clear Politics Electoral College map shows a Clinton victory with 272 electoral votes at the time of writing. Clinton is ahead in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Ohio, and Florida. But she is also ahead in North Carolina, and she is tied in Georgia and Arizona (!). The only state Obama won in 2012 that is trending in Trump’s direction is Iowa, where he is eight-tenths of a percent behind Clinton in the Real Clear Politics average.

A turnaround operation costs money. As of June 30, Clinton had $44 million cash on hand. Outside groups supporting her had slightly less, about $40 million. Trump had about half as much—$20 million—on hand, and outside groups supporting him had a fraction of that. The new leadership at Trump Tower is heralding the campaign’s first television ads. But the buy is small, a pittance compared with pro-Clinton television spending ($93 million) and the value of Trump’s earned media, which has been worth billions, almost all of it negative.

To say that both Trump and Clinton are unpopular masks the extent to which Donald Trump is despised. Hillary Clinton’s favorable/unfavorable numbers are 42 percent to 54 percent, a spread of 12 points. Trump’s are 33 percent to 62 percent: a spread of 29 points. If he works hard enough, I think he can get that number higher.

The political environment does not favor Trump. His supporters are quick to point out that two-thirds of the country says we are headed in the wrong direction. But the country has said this for years, even as it reelected George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012. The question is so abstract as to be meaningless.

Concrete measures favor the incumbent party. The president’s approval rating is about 52 percent in the Real Clear Politics average. Democrats lead the congressional generic ballot by 3 points. July unemployment was 4.9 percent. The cost of a gallon of gas is about $2.

On August 18, 2012, President Obama held a slightly more than 3-point advantage over Mitt Romney. When you add money spent by outside groups, the president and Romney were financially competitive.

If Mitt Romney, with all his intelligence, fluency, decency, drive, resources, and victory in the first presidential debate was unable to overcome President Obama’s convention bounce, why would a despised ignoramus with no money, no organization, no political experience, no party unity, and no clue be able to overcome Clinton’s? Does he believe more taco bowls will do the trick?

"It’s preseason, for heaven’s sake," a frustrated and hapless Mike Pence told the Republican Governors Association earlier this week. "The gun starts on Labor Day." So it does. But here’s the thing about the preseason: Most of the time it shows just how crappy a team you have.

Published under: Donald Trump