When the dust settles from the Super Tuesday contests in a dozen states, billionaire Donald Trump and former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will emerge as the prohibitive favorites to claim the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations – and then it will be game on heading into the November general election.
While they accrue widespread support, Trump and Clinton are both highly flawed candidates with remarkably high negatives who would carry considerable baggage into the general election campaign. Trump is threatening to drive a huge wedge through his party with his bellicose anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric and themes of intolerance.
Clinton, for her part, is struggling to connect with her party’s more liberal members and young people, and has been dogged by controversies over her email at the State Department and paid speeches on Wall Street that have raised numerous concerns about her honesty and integrity.
Trump once again boasted Tuesday that he would relish a one-on-one contest with Clinton this fall and predicted that he would emerge victorious. But a new CNN/ORC poll released today suggests just the opposite: In a hypothetical matchup between the two frontrunners, Clinton would prevail, 52 percent to 44 percent, among registered Republican and Democratic voters and independents.
The battle to succeed President Obama has devolved into a nasty, bruising contest, especially among the Republicans. And more than three fourths of the electorate says the nation is more deeply divided on major challenges facing the country than in the past. While Trump and Clinton are saddled with high negative ratings – 60 percent of voters disapprove of Trump and 55 percent disapprove of Clinton—voters have pretty much decided that one or the other should be president.
The survey asked 1,000 GOP, Democratic and independent voters to choose which of the remaining top candidates they trust most to handle seven top issues, regardless of party. Trump, the real estate magnate and former reality TV host, topped the list on handling the economy, terrorism and immigration, while Clinton was deemed better able to handle healthcare, race relations and foreign policy. Voters were evenly divided over which candidate would better handle gun policy.
Asked for their overall opinion of the two rivals, Clinton rated 42 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable to Trump’s 37 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable.
According to a CNN analysis, the voters choices viewed through the prism of party affiliation suggested that Trump might hold more “cross-party appeal” than Clinton – especially on issues of healthcare, terrorism, the economy and immigration. As Trump alienates more moderate members of his party, he might be able to expand his base with appeals to more conservative Democrats and independents.
While a Trump-Clinton matchup this fall now seems almost a certainty, the new survey conducted in January suggests that Clinton would have a tougher time against either of the two other top Republican candidates. In a hypothetical matchup, Clinton trails Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 47 percent to 50 percent, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 48 percent to 49 percent.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, would top all three Republicans by wide margins: 57 percent to 40 percent against Cruz, 55 percent to 43 percent against Trump, and 53 percent to 45 percent against Rubio. According to the survey, Sanders would perform better than Clinton does in each match-up among men, younger voters and independents.