Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and her chief rival Bernie Sanders offered a vivid preview of the Democrats’ possible line of attack against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump this fall. In nationally televised interviews on Wednesday, they denounced Trump as dangerous, erratic and a threat to U.S. and global security.
Clinton, the former secretary of state, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Trump “scares me” and “scares a lot of thoughtful leaders around the world” with his ideas about barring Muslims from the U.S., jettisoning the NATO alliance and even encouraging Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. She said she has received numerous private communications from alarmed foreign diplomats and leaders asking her, “What is going on? What does this mean?”
She and Sanders railed against the real estate mogul’s startling pronouncement that women should be subject to “some sort of punishment” for undergoing illegal abortions – a statement Trump made earlier in the day during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Trump’s campaign quickly walked back the comment in the face of a bipartisan firestorm of protest from women’s organizations, political groups and even Trump’s remaining Republican opponents, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“What Donald Trump said today was outrageous and dangerous,” Clinton said, arguing that if he were elected president, Trump would pose a serious threat to women’s constitutional rights to an abortion. “This is just beyond any position taken by someone running for president in a serious way for a very long time,” she said. “And I think not only women, but all Americans need to understand that this kind of inflammatory, destructive rhetoric is really on the outer edges of what is permitted under our Constitution.”
Sanders was equally tough in his comments in a separate interview with Maddow, saying that "I don't know what world this person lives in … To punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension.”
While it’s always risky to suggest that Trump may have gone too far this time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that weeks of controversy, shocking pronouncements and even violence at some of his campaign events have begun to catch up to him and slowed his march to the GOP presidential nomination.
The latest test of that thesis will come early next week in Wisconsin. The GOP primary contest is being closely watched as a barometer of whether Trump can sustain his momentum in a large, industrial Midwestern state. Right now it looks as if he will have trouble doing that.
Cruz holds a substantial lead over Trump in Tuesday’s primary, 40 percent to 30 percent, with Kasich trailing in third place with 21 percent of the likely Republican voters, according to a new Marquette University Law School poll.
Trump may have bigger problems nationally. A new survey by the Washington Post-ABC News published on Thursday found that if Trump manages to claim the Republican presidential nomination in July, he would begin the general election campaign this fall as “the least-popular candidate to represent either party in modern times.”
The poll illustrates that while Trump remains the darling of many angry or disenchanted white conservative Republicans and independents who helped catapult him to the front of a once-crowded GOP presidential field, he is reviled or feared by the larger American electorate.
Indeed, 67 percent of all Americans surveyed expressed negative feelings for the real estate magnate and one-time reality TV host, which would make him the most disliked major party presidential nominee in three decades if he captures the nomination in Cleveland.
Drilling down into the poll data, the Post’s analysts found that three-fourths of all women view Trump unfavorably, as do roughly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of millennials, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.
Trump’s controversial comments on abortion will likely drive a bigger wedge between his campaign and women voters in both parties, many of whom are alarmed by his misogynistic comments and near-obsessive attacks on Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. If women turn against Trump in Wisconsin next week, it could be a very bad night for him.
Trump has been able to excite the GOP’s conservative, anti-establishment base with his relentless attacks on illegal immigrants, his belittling of virtually every aspect of government, his boasts that he would order the military to torture captured terrorists, his promises to renegotiate major trade deals to bring back jobs from overseas, and his pledge to push through the biggest tax cut in history.
But as he continues to generate negative reactions among millions of voters, more mainstream Republican leaders are worried that he will lose the November election and bring the party down with him.
Party leaders have long acknowledged that it will be tough for the GOP to retain a majority in the Senate with Trump at the top of the ticket. But some are now fretting that even the Republicans’ huge edge in the House might be in jeopardy as well. This could become more of a problem for Trump if Clinton succeeds in portraying Trump as unstable and dangerous to the future of the country.
One factor that might work in Trump’s favor is that Clinton isn’t particularly popular either, with many voters deeming her untrustworthy or dishonest because of her handling of her emails at the State Department and her cozy ties to Wall Street. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed by the Post and ABC News have an unfavorable opinion of her, while only 46 percent have a favorable view.
Yet as this and other polls have shown, Clinton would beat Trump in the general election by double digits, and Sanders – the self-described democratic socialist — would do even better.
What’s more, a Trump vs. Clinton matchup in November would likely be a bloodbath for the Republicans in the Electoral College, according to an analysis by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Director Larry Sabato and his team recently projected that Clinton would win 347 electoral votes to Trump’s 191.
“Election analysts prefer close elections,” they wrote, “but there was nothing we could do to make this one close.”