Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton’s super PAC this week will begin airing the first in a series of attack ads against Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee -- and they’re coming none too soon for Clinton.
After weeks of preliminary jousting and bitter exchanges between the former secretary of state and the bombastic New York real estate magnate, Clinton and Trump are locked in a virtual dead heat, according to three new national polls.
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The latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll released on Tuesday shows Clinton’s earlier five-point lead over Trump shrinking to just three points within a week’s time, 48 percent to 45 percent. And a new national survey by Morning Consult has the race even closer, with Clinton ahead by just 42 percent to 40 percent, a statistical tie. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last Wednesday also showed the candidates deadlocked, with 41 percent of likely voters supporting Clinton and 40 percent backing Trump, and 19 percent undecided.
Clinton has yet to lock up her party’s presidential nomination, and she may come close to doing that by the end of the night in her latest primary matchups with rival Sen. Bernie Sanders in Kentucky and Oregon. But there is little doubt that the general election donnybrook between Clinton and Trump is already underway.
Trump has signaled he will attack Clinton on her mishandling of sensitive email at the State Department, her response to the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, and Clinton’s alleged role as an “enabler” of her husband’s scandalous womanizing during his presidency.
Trump told The New York Times this week that he would bring up former President Bill Clinton’s infidelities during the nationally televised presidential debates this fall. He said he would also make the case that Hillary Clinton is “crooked” and corrupt, citing everything from her cattle futures trading in the 1970s to the current FBI investigation of her misuse of a personal email server to convey classified information during her four years as secretary of state.
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Clinton insists she won’t get down in the mud with Trump as the campaign heats up. However, she and her advisers already are painting Trump as a major league misogynist who has repeatedly degraded woman; an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim isolationist; and a public policy know-nothing who would lead the country down the road to economic and international ruin. During a campaign event Monday evening in Bowling Green, Ky., Clinton mocked Trump by impersonating him as a big talker with no substantive plans for the economy.
A pro-Clinton Super PAC, Priorities USA, on Wednesday will begin airing the first two of a series of general election hit ads against Trump, in the battle ground states of Florida, Virginia and Nevada. The Super PAC is mounting a $6 million media campaign to portray Trump as a “divisive, dangerous con man who should never be president of the United States,” according to a spokesman for the organization.
One of the ads uses a variety of female actors wearing Trump T-shirts and mouthing Trump’s nasty or inappropriate words about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and other women before asking the question, “Does Donald Trump really speak for you?”
Trump tweeted a number of angry rejoinders to the ads today, including one stating: “Amazing that Crooked Hillary can do a hit ad on me concerning women when her husband was the WORST abuser of women in U.S. political history.”
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The latest polls, of course, are only part of the picture, and Clinton continues to lead Trump by 5.7 points in the average national polling, according to Real Clear Politics. And she begins the general election race far ahead of the billionaire businessman in the all-important contest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Clinton was able to mass an insurmountable delegate lead over Sanders throughout the Democratic primary season by racking up big victories among African-American and Hispanic voters, and the latest NBC News tracking poll shows that she continues to do very well with these groups over Trump. Black voters favor Clinton over Trump by 84 percent to 9 percent – a 75-point gap while Hispanic voters support Clinton, 65 percent to 28 percent, over Trump.
There is also a large gender gap among voters that slightly favors Clinton. The former secretary of state beats Trump among women by 15 points, but Trump leads her among men by an 11-point margin. The former first lady is still struggling to attract younger voters, a problem that has hurt her throughout the primary campaign against Sanders. And Trump holds a 14-point lead over Clinton among white voters, according to the NBC poll.
Both candidates face major challenges in trying to unite their parties before the November general election, with Clinton faced with likely defections from some ardent, liberal Sanders supporters and Trump facing a mini-revolt from many GOP conservatives and intellectuals who are threatening to either mount a third party campaign or sit out the election.
Even if both candidates succeed in uniting their parties, a key question is whether Clinton or Trump will be better able to attract independent voters to put them over the top. According to the NBC News polling analysis, Trump right now holds the advantage among independents, 44 percent to 36 percent.